COMMENT

With Port Authority Bus Terminal and Lincoln Tunnel Fourth Tube

 PORT AUTHORITY CAPITAL PLAN 2017-2026

February 8, 2017

1. HIGH-CAPACITY HOBOKEN FERRY SERVICE

The Capital Plan should include money set aside to explore high-capacity ferry service from the railhead at Hoboken to lower Manhattan, and to quickly implement it, including a high-capacity terminal for big boats opposite Hoboken in Manhattan. This is an important stop-gap, given the situation with the Hudson Tunnel Project where partial or complete closure without warning is more probable than not within the next few years (see the links below regarding the tunnel project) and because the condition of PATH Tunnel A warrants it, as it was found unsafe by a highly paid and reputable British consultant (hired by NJ Transit, I believe) twenty-five years ago, who said it should be closed by now. Having this relatively inexpensive stop-gap online now is therefore of crucial importance. Your commenter is not well versed on particulars of providing high-capacity ferry service here, though aware that a good deal has been spent during the past several years to upgrade the Hoboken Ferry Terminal. Whether high capacity including big boats has been the objective all along is unknown, but if this is not the case the question baldly poses itself: why not? Am not aware of any overriding debility of draft clearance or historical exigencies that would affect this.

2. ALTERNATE PLAN FOR LAGUARDIA ACCESS

WILLETS POINT - LAGUARDIA
(Please see the "Tentative LGA ​Gateway Configuration" below, for the updated alignment.)

With access to three major spectator venues, plus the Number 7 Train and Long Island Railroad, the Willets Point end of the proposed Willets Point - LaGuardia rail line certainly has a lot to recommend it. But for any forward thinking observer there is a whole lot more, not least of which is the way the planned LaGuardia terminus can be made to allow the line's extension to Northern Boulevard in Astoria, approximately doubling its 2.75-mile length, to provide a direct connection from Midtown to the airport.

HELL GATE LINE TO LAGUARDIA AIRPORT​

There is, however, the small matter of not having any station on the Hell Gate Line at Northern Boulevard - although it seems clear a station there was originally planned, for when the local population got to the point where it would justify construction, which has now long passed. The low-slung, curving track and bridge work alone (purple) would probably cost fifty million today - but, properly planned, a Northern Boulevard Station at this location would be stunning - and with multi-level parking and broad based accommodations for shopping, would attract more passengers than the three preferred alternatives of the Penn Station Access Study combined.

Strangely, the access study does not mention a Northern Boulevard Station, or any station in Queens for that matter; but a station at this point is essential if a direct route to LaGuardia is to be had. While a trip on the Hell Gate Line is one of the most excitement-inducing that American railroading has to offer, the place where it crosses Northern Boulevard has remained an eyesore for most of the line’s hundred-year existence (not a very nice reflection on American railroading) with relief coming only comparatively recently in the form of some big box stores and other commerce.
 
Unfortunately, a LaGuardia-to-Northern Boulevard extension, even one using the lightweight technology and mostly-single-track configuration envisioned here, would cost somewhat more to build than the Willets Point - LaGuardia section having approximately the same length (less the shared maintenance facility located at the airport) requiring - in addition to the station at Northern Boulevard - two or three cable staid bridges to negotiate places where minimal intrusion at ground level is necessary. So the Willets Point - LaGuardia plan may be seen as a desirable precedent to achieving a direct route to LaGuardia.

RAIL TO LAGUARDIA​

THE ONLY DIRECT ROUTE - BY WAY OF A NEW NORTHERN BOULEVARD STATION ON THE HELL GATE LINE

Proceeding east, the extended line would include stations at Northern Boulevard, 64th Street and Chamber of Commerce. Cable staid technology would provide for a gradual elongated crossing of Grand Central Parkway, allowing the single-track alignment to pass over multiple traffic lanes without obstructing the existing right-of-way. An elevated storage and maintenance facility (green) would enable passing of trains proceeding in opposite directions, as would other multiple-track stations along the route. Owing to its lightweight, flexible design, the track infrastructure contemplated here would allow a large number of stations and alignments at the airport to be configured relatively cheaply and more-or-less at will, depending on current needs and the terminals served.


Continuing east from LaGuardia, a station at World's Fair Marina-Astoria Boulevard would provide quick access to bus connections on Astoria Boulevard, given slight modification of bus routes and improvements allowing access to the proposed line. The station's two-platform layout would allow control of access to facilities at the Marina. The station at Citi Field would be able to accommodate four trains, with three 25' platforms serving two tracks. With controlled access to the station based on fare purchase at point of entry, passenger volume could be kept within manageable limits, and trains having the capacity of three city busses (about 180 passengers) could be scheduled to make departures at 1.5-minute intervals for a sufficient time to reduce passenger volume to near-normal levels. The LIRR terminus station serving Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe Stadiums would be capable of accommodating two trains on its long single track.

TENTATIVE LGA GATEWAY CONFIGURATION

3. BUS TERMINAL AND FOURTH TUBE

IT IS ASTONISHING that with Helix Plans now in the late stages, no proposal for a fourth tube has yet been mooted from any quarter. The Helix plan would probably require some revision to take into account the necessary eight express lanes extending west through the cut in Weehawken and Union City. Plans for upgrading the cut with eight lanes, and covering it to provide room for development and public uses such as public parks above it, would be quite complicated - possibly more so than the suggested Manhattan configuration pictured below - but in my own brief investigation aimed at determining feasibility of upgrading the cut I found it to be feasible (for what that's worth) and manifoldly desirable.


Tunnel work for the now-completed section of the 2nd Avenue Subway amounted only to some $750,000,000 - versus the incredible total price - and this is seens by your commenter as complete validation of the Fourth Tube Concept - here keeping in mind the necessity and desirability of always thinking forward rather than retrogressively, lest serious problems, difficult or impossible to surmount, later present themselves as a result.

LINCOLN TUNNEL FOURTH TUBE WITH DIRECT CONNECTION TO BUS TERMINAL

HOW CAN IT BE that in all these years of bus terminal studies no one has suggested a fourth tube? How much have they spent on this? The same consultants and contractors the Port Authority engages as a matter of course are busy worldwide building transportation and tunnels that make us look like idiots. When are they going to fix the ceiling? The plan to cover and build on top of the existing tunnel approaches in Manhattan seems especially mischievous. The 10-lane "Knotenpunkt" at the entrance of the two southern tubes, where traffic can be found standing for hours at a time, is exactly the type of situation where this definitely shouldn't happen. Any new tunnel entrance or terminal building (insofar as it's within sight and directly related) should reflect and complement the existing tunnel approaches, including the fancy brickwork and masonry, and the iconic tower lighting which, notably, has been removed at the Manhattan approach to the two southern tubes. (if it was ever there) The 1957 portal of the Middle Tube there was particularly elegant. The operating mode of incessantly running exposed conduits and other destructive "improvements" everywhere - without any concern for preserving the property - can be brought to a halt, and remedied concurrently with construction of a new terminal and fourth tube as here described.

4. PATH LINE EXTENSION AND MY PARTIAL RETRACTION

Given opportunity to investigate the issue, specifically concerning the 22-minute travel time from Lower Manhattan to Newark proper (God it certainly used to seem longer than that to me, bouncing and clattering through the Flats.) I must revise my spoken comment opposing extension of PATH to Newark Airport, and affirm here the probably-thorough public approval of the project. (without studying any of the probably-expensive particulars of extending the service to the Airport Station.)

 

There is little doubt that John James knows what's good for the communities of Newark and speaks with their interests in mind in promoting the additional station. However, I do see promoting of the PATH extension as a substitute for proper development of an (again-probably) more-or-less at-grade conventional rail loop at the airport needed to replace the always-problematic people mover now reaching the end of its useful life. Following the lateral configuration of the people mover it is believed a connection to the existing terminals can be achieved - notwithstanding the reverse curves - and all possibilities should now be investigated in view of the current and likely-to-increase difficulties of physical obstructions involved. This is especially important given Newark's being the one major airport that lends itself to expansion, by extension over the turnpike. Quiet stewardship of the properties thus concerned should be considered a priority too, with the now again-proven vast superiority of Bayonne versus Port Newark as a harbor kept firmly in mind.

 

Concerning the additional station it seems Newark has been short sold regarding development of the Newark City Subway System - with an underground Broad Street-and-South Broad Street line, and eventually an intersecting Clinton Avenue Line that strongly suggest themselves. Not to mention Market Street. (This following the failed - and intentionally so - lip service to modern rail development in the form of the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link's First Operable[sic.] Segment with its reliance on obsolete "grade-running" and addition of numerous grade crossings, tight curves and steep grades, creating a situation were if you want to get to Broad Street Station from Raymond & Broad it's quicker just to walk. - at $1-billion in 1999 dollars.) Also, importantly, this should not be seen as my approval of delay regarding development of the Atlantic Avenue Line - into Lower Manhattan and through the Bergen Arches to serve New Jersey rail connections - which must necessarily be included in all schemes promoted by the concerned agencies regarding future rail development. (see links on Hudson rail crossings below)

 

The Calatrava station in Manhattan certainly provides a luxurious and no-expense-spared PATH Interface with it's solid marble boarding platforms and stairs(!?) viewed by this commenter for the first time in making his way to the February 7 hearing of comments; but the question arises: Has the MTA gotten the foremost railroad architect of his generation to build a train station in the wrong place? (not 500' from the Fulton Transportation Center at a point with limited-to-non-existent space for additional station trackage - whereas this is available in spades under West Street opposite and S. of the World Financial Center.)

5. HUDSON TUNNEL PROJECT vs. THE CORRECT ALTERNATIVE

PENN STATION LINE

Was lucky enough to get to talk to one of your engineers February 7 and he told me he was working on plans for the Moynihan platform tracks - so consider it applicable to discuss my theories on the Hudson Tunnel Project here.


My conception of the tunnel envisions a new Penn Station Line. The Penn Station Line would be an extension of the Morris & Essex Line. Continuing east on a tangent where the M&E Line turns south before crossing the Lower Hackensack Bridge, the extension would proceed over a new bridge and through a station with four-way grade-separated interchange - then enter a tunnel directly east of the station leading to Manhattan. In this way the two rail hubs in Manhattan would ultimately have a dedicated station in the Meadowlands providing full connectivity for each: Lautenberg Station, allowing transfer within the station, and Jersey Junction, providing seamless four-way connectivity, with local transit service and parking for Jersey City passengers.

 

The new line would save four fifths of a mile versus the existing one and more than a mile versus the current Hudson tunnel plan - which doubles back on itself at an acute angle in New Jersey then has to unwind by way of a reverse curve in the tunnel. (The above drawing is quite flattering versus the Hudson Tunnel Project's actual profile. A more realistic depiction is forthcoming.)

The tunnel envisioned here would be of the two-track single tube variety, allowing nighttime double-stack freight to use a center track straddling the other two. In Manhattan, freight would be processed at an intermodal recycling and transfer facility located along a new, 4-track "West Side Line". Passengers as well as freight would benefit from the tunnel and West Side Line combination, most immediately as a Penn Station alternate in partially-built form having two four-track stations, at 14th and 23rd Streets - thereby avoiding the necessity of keeping the existing tunnels working full time through years of construction and, for a time, of acquiring a large swath of Midtown Manhattan with potential for contentious property issues.

The advantages of the Trans-Hudson/West Side Line configuration are manifold. In the absence of future Jersey-to-Atlantic Avenue service or extension via Brooklyn to Staten Island and Bayonne, an end-point-terminus opposite the World Financial Center, combined with a fully realized West Side Line, would do much to take the strain off Penn Station and the existing north-south transit facilities - with custom tailored trips offering six options on the Manhattan side. West Street, opposite and south of the World Financial Center, offers a rare opening for addition of substantial terminal trackage with a strictly limited price in terms of displacements. The end-point-terminus and nascent second-rank Manhattan hub at this location would lend itself well to several supra-regional schemes, including express service to Albany if only they had a train station. But commuter service, both in New Jersey and along the Hudson - including its growing intractable ramifications in Midtown - would stand to benefit greatly in terms of direct access, travel times, convenience and capacity.

JERSEY JUNCTION

The Jersey Junction configuration provides seamless four-way connectivity to all commuter rail lines existing or contemplated in New Jersey, plus access to Jersey City and Lower Manhattan by way of the four-track Bergen Arches, to the Hoboken Ferry Terminal, and Lackawanna Station with its extensive storage and station trackage. Thus it must be considered as the essential "given" in contemplating any future-oriented scheme for commuter rail in the New York-New Jersey Region - though it would not be necessary to build the whole station/interchange concurrently as a single grand project: a lot of it already exists. Nor is it necessary to remove the entire coal-fired Hudson Generating Plant in order to arrange a right-of-way through the property, although there are those who might consider this a good idea. But a plan to make PSE&G whole while introducing modernized generating facilities in a slightly altered configuration is hardly unimaginable.

The track layout at Jersey Junction strongly suggests the shape of an iconic, partially open-air station building about 1000' across. Jersey Junction would obviate the awkward "West Side Wye and Loop" agglomeration planned in Secaucus - with it's circuitous, steep grades and dicey low-speed/high-speed timing issues resulting in travel times probably longer than just walking within the station to make a transfer. And (much discussed in terms of how to do it) the Wye-and-Loop does not give access to the West Shore Line, but Jersey Junction does.

 

Further discussion of the tunnel project is found at the project-specific pages under "Hudson Tunnel Project vs.The Correct Alternative" and "The ARC Trans-Hudson Tunnel vs. the Correct Alternative: Several Reasons to Stop the Arc Tunnel Project" - the texts and images of which, though in need of revision in some instances, are included in this comment "as if fully set out herinunderandbelow..."

               Bruce W. Hain                                                                                                                                                                                    Queens, New York             

If you want your comment to appear on Facebook, click the box next to "Also post on Facebook" at lower left. (It doesn't show up till you click or enter text in the text box.)