In 1995, one of the alternatives of the original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project would have developed a track connection for New Jersey Transit (NJT) trains to go to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan. New Jersey riders, especially commuters whose offices are nearby, would have enjoyed convenient access to them for the first time. That alternative was eliminated in 2003, and the means for delivering new Manhattan capacity was downgraded to a stub-end deep-cavern station 20 stories below ground.
While the COVID-19 virus was occupying most of our attention, an event so unforeseeable and strange occurred that anything remotely resembling it had previously been considered unthinkable. For a brief time in April, oil literally became equivalent to trash. It brought a negative price on the market, which meant that its owners had to pay to get rid of it, as the cost to store it kept rising. That phenomenon was a momentary hiccup of our virus-based economy, but it says something about supply, demand and the cost of infrastructure. This does have something to do with the Gateway Program, and it is time for the members of the Board of the Gateway Development Corp. (GDC) to start noticing some recent changes. As of the May 28 meeting, they had not.
Proponents of the Gateway Program split a double-header on Feb. 10, 2020, when the Federal Transit Administration released its ratings for projects for which grant applications were filed through the New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity Improvement Programs.
When we published the sixth article in this series last month, we promised continuing coverage of the Gateway saga. What we did not know at that time was that so much news would come to us so quickly. At a Board meeting of the Gateway Program Development Corp. on July 22, a Gateway spokesperson presented an analysis of delays that he attributed to the existing Portal Bridge and the existing Hudson Tunnels (also known as the North River Tunnels) on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and criticized the plan currently under way to rehabilitate the Canarsie Tunnels in New York City. Both analyses omitted facts that indicate that Gateway’s Hudson Tunnel and Portal North Bridge projects are not as cost-effective or necessary as he made them appear. Later that day, the Gateway Corporation became a “Commission” with questionable fundraising authority. Despite that change, a former offer by New Jersey Transit (NJT) to impose a surcharge on future rail trips to and from New York has been scuttled, raising the question of how New Jersey can replace the money that would have come from the surcharge.
For almost half a century, passenger rail service in the United States has resided in the public sector. Despite its unusual statutory charter, Amtrak’s voting shares belong to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Every transit agency that runs trains in its metropolitan area is owned by some sort of public entity, whether based in state or local government, or a separate public-sector authority. Times are changing, though, and certain private-sector entities have expressed interest in running passenger railroads.
As the COVID-19 virus began to sweep across the nation in March, everybody seemed to cling to the hope that it would do its damage and move on quickly, so life could return to “normal.” Rail transit in most cities switched to weekend schedules on weekdays. Most of the country’s commuter rail providers did that, too.
For the second time in less than four weeks, a streetcar line in the United States has bitten the dust. This one is Philadelphia’s Route 15, operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and which ran for 8.4 miles along Girard Avenue, an east-west street about one mile north of Market Street.