Friday, March 01, 2013

Box tunnel pact presages Amtrak Gateway Tunnel

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Amtrak has reached tentative agreement with private developers in Manhattan to construct an 800-foot-long box tunnel on site at the 26-acre Hudson Yards development site on Manhattan’s West Side. The tunnel would act as a placeholder for eventual expansion of Northeast Corridor capacity under the Hudson River, Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel project.

Building the tunnel now was deemed imperative, since the megabillion-dollar Hudson Yards development already is under way atop the site, which includes the NEC approach to Amtrak’s Penn Station-New York, as well as Long Island Rail Road’s John D. Caemmerer West Side Yard. 

Federal funding of up to $150 million will pay for the box tunnel, to be constructed by Related Cos., which is developing on (and above) the Hudson Yards site. The tunnel also would serve the proposed Moynihan Station, the station upgrade planned to augment and possibly supersede the current Penn Station.

Amtrak began advancing the Gateway Tunnel project shortly after a previous tunnel plan, Access to the Region’s Core, was terminated by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who cited concerns over cost overruns. Many New Jersey rail advocates also soured on the previous plan, overseen by New Jersey Transit, but are voicing more support for Amtrak’s proposal. 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) assisted in the arrangement, and praised the Related Cos. and its chairman, Stephen Ross, for being “a good citizen” in the matter. “They’re doing it in such a way that their foundations and the box tunnel will be in synch,” Schumer said to local media.

Amtrak's Board of Directors is expected to formally approve the deal at its next meeting this month. A formal agreement is scheduled to be signed this summer, with work commencing in the fall.