TODAY'S COMMENT IN WRITING
Construction & Development Committee 12/18/23
Not having the originally intended alignment of Track 1 at Jamaica diverging east of 150th Street, then running all the way through the Sutphin Boulevard Bridge and Jamaica Station at a single heading of 249.75° - was the first thing they got wrong, about 1930. The Pennsylvania Railroad was forced to build the 1930 grade separation project at Jamaica, and included a grade-separated connection to the Atlantic Line, but never completed the missing inbound mainline track intended to run uninterrupted from east of 150th Street through to Station Track 1. This was prevented by a then-new, yellow brick gas station with fancy brickwork (among possibly other properties) located directly north of the 150th Street railroad bridge, which still stands, and now has a taller addition to the north, probably added post-war on what was the fancy fueling plaza.
So the alignment of Track 1 has been wrong since it was built about 1930, and the giant new residential building lying directly adjacent and to the north now prevents altering the Sutphin Boulevard Bridge so as to remove the curve of the northmost Track 1 located on it. This would have enabled a straight alignment at the east of the station, rather than the existing curve located right at the platform, and the resulting shitty reverse curve at the turnout to the storage yard.
This divergence from the intended (or optimal/optimistic) plan also necessitated the converging of the three westbound mainline tracks east of 150th Street down to two (to avoid demolishing the gas station) and the apparent quandary on how to address the problems posed by all this in modern times.
But until 2015 or 2016 you could have built the intended Track 1 - true to the original intended plan - without affecting any property but your own and the decrepit gas station.
It is the new residential building to the north that blocks any modification of the Sutphin Boulevard Bridge needed to remove the Track 1 curve so as to allow an extended platform-aligned Track 1, running in a straight line from east of Sutphin Boulevard all the way through the station on a single, tangent heading. It also prevents a third eastbound track at 150th Street running direct to the platforms. And this poses the question, WHY?
WHY DID YOUR ENGINEERS, PLANNERS AND CONSULTANTS NOT TELL YOU THIS NEEDED TO BE DONE NOW, IN 2016, WHEN THE PROBLEMATIC THREE-TRACK CONVERGENCE AND REVERSE CURVE COULD HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED FOR A TINY FRACTION OF THE COST? (Now the reverse curve can never be addressed, except by closing the yard and developing it with the proceeds to benefit the MTA, sometime in the distant future.)
The currently "in-progress" modifications at Hall Interlocking could also have been arranged so that they actually address some of the capacity problems you're about to start experiencing, due to the inept yet exorbitantly expensive work you now intend to have carried out. (meaning the bridge, particularly) It's a screaming example of misfeasance by the MTA - one of many rail transit agencies affected by this kind of thing, we assume involuntarily. But on some level it is malfeasance, of a very deliberate and destructive kind, which urgently requires your attention.
1.) The flyover bridge of your Hall Interlocking Re-Build is practically useless, because it reenters existing trackage where you've left only one through-track for bypassing the platforms and no way to reach it, with the lone bypass itself currently encumbered by its connections to several platform tracks at either end. By removing the idiotic Platform F alone you would gain three totally independent through-tracks, plus a through-connection of the main line coming from the west. But the flyover bridge at Hall Interlocking should be left till last, After the AirTrain Terminal is MOVED OFF THE RIGHT-OF-WAY, thereby affording five integrated through-tracks at Jamaica Station, with space for the two additional tracks from the flyover to enter so that, if necessary, multiple trains can proceed unobstructed at reasonably high speed past the station and depart in multiple directions at either end, simultaneously. A connection to the Main Line for inbound through service, running off the eastbound Main Line through-connection already in place, should also be built at some point.
Tracks flying over Hall Interlocking lack versatility to serve various platforms and through-tracks as against those running at grade for more than 250' in front of the platforms. The currently planned flyover in any case is barely useful because it fails to address the problem of the three westbound mainline tracks converging down to two. Tracks are supposed to propagate on approaching stations. The current flyover concept adds an extra, never-planned mainline track directly east of the platforms, which will generally be funneled through certain station tracks, according to the limited diagram I possess. If I were you I'd want to see very detailed drawings of exactly how they intend to squeeze that in and connect it so as to afford a high number of advantageous options - or whether it's only a concept. The existing Hall layup tracks, where the flyover is intended to set down, are hard-wired to either Track 4 or 5, for instance. Space is always an extremely important consideration in locations like that; it directly affects every calculation and possibility. While my remedy requires considerable jockeying of positions - and some angles - to situate tracks at Hall for full connectivity as well as higher speed, it doesn't add an extra mainline track to a fanning configuration where none was foreseen and no additional space exists.
I am thoroughly convinced that the only way to achieve the accustomed convenience afforded by a proportionally higher volume of cross-platform transfers inclusive of the needed Grand Central Madison capacity - as Jamaica was designed to do, and capable of handling, with the lesser-but-same service having existed there for over ninety years heretofore - is to undertake the staged modifications which I am suggesting.
The correct (and less expensive versus the flyover) solution is to move the entering leg of the Atlantic Line over 17.5' so it runs straight to Track 3 - thereby reducing its broad-radius curve to something quite similar to the curve on the other, departing leg of the same Atlantic Line. (It's possible the curve of the entering leg was intentionally made about twice as broad as the one on the departing leg, with the aim of moving the inbound track over specifically in mind, in case property for the intended Track 1 alignment never became available. In the devolved fact, it became available but the MTA failed to acquire it.) Again, tracks flying over Hall Interlocking lack the versatility to serve various platforms and through-tracks as against those running at grade for more than 250' out from the platforms; the planned flyover has much greater capacity than can be utilized, because it can't be connected to much effectively. Future delays at Jamaica are predictable, requiring divergence from planned schedules and the resulting discouraged passengers as the demand for train capacity increases. Like the current delays at the flyover on the west - with the giant propaganda kinks - these coming delays will always be, to a degree, staged - but with some very expensive new infrastructure this time, ostensibly designed to prevent it.
2.) Manifold additional problems exist east of Jamaica, which must be addressed in order to make the Main Line suitable and versatile, with sufficient train capacity for future growth; but the tendency during the past 50 years has been to do exactly the opposite, blocking and constraining the Main Line at several points, thereby critically limiting its versatility and capacity to allow unencumbered fast movements and connections.
(The kind of decrepitude (or alleged wiring business?) that caused the recent split-switch derailment at Hall doesn't help. There are ever occurring authorizations for track work but the tracks and special trackwork west of Jamaica are all worn flat, with old cracked ties. It appears third rail power is lacking at certain points, in order possibly to drive the point home about the "crucial necessity" of the coming re-build and rearrangement of this trackage - which will make it worse. Only the platform tracks appear to be maintained.)
At one time it was intended that the Hempstead Branch would run as a separate, continuous two-track line from Jamaica all the way to Floral Park, just as the Port Washington Branch runs separate from Harold Interlocking. A lot of money was spent at some point to achieve this, providing island platforms at several of the intervening stations including Floral Park, but the work was never completed.
And in the meantime - going back several decades - deliberate obstructing "improvements" that effectively block the needed minimum-six-track outcome have been introduced. While the existing underlying bridgework and right-of-way was yet copious and amenable, the Hillside Facility was built and arranged so as to box the Main Line in. Given that no left-aligned eastbound connection to the Montauk Branch was ever realized there, it would seem that Hillside could be arranged so as to allow at least six mainline tracks, with plenty of room for storage and a three-track Hillside station. It's really a sight in aerial view.
The Hollis station is too close to the Hillside station and they should be combined, with husbanding of property rights on the north to arrange for station amenities. (...or not, and let property wait, allowing public outcry to achieve its desired effect.) In the devolved fact however the Hollis station will probably be rebuilt on site, and reduced to two tracks straddling a single island platform - whereas no station should exist there at all. Remains of the old station need to be removed and the opening thoroughly blocked or filled and secured.
Your actions now show that you intend - inexplicably and without any physical or factual rationale - to scrap the idea of having a minimum six continuous tracks from Jamaica to Floral Park, thus enabling a continuous two-way, two-track line on the south leading to the Hempstead Branch, though this is the simplest and easiest way of providing the desired capacity and versatility - while limiting directional conflicts at speed - and the most cost-effective means possible of carrying it out. This (the cost-effectiveness) despite a number of damaging alterations having already taken place, and regardless of whether you can manage to collect from the people who have been and are now leading you astray.
It is likely desirable that maintenance operations now carried out in the small building south of the Hillside Yard, if any, be relocated somehow, in order to provide sufficient space to accommodate a minimum of six mainline tracks there, with the three platforms, and without reducing the storage capacity, but rather expanding it. And it would help if, rather than having you build the gigantic and costly new diesel facility at Morris Park, your engineers and advisors had concentrated on solving the myriad grade separation issues still existing to the east (including the disgraceful omission at Mineola in the course of a recent multi-billion-dollar project*) to make further branch lines ready for third-rail power.
(*The said project took a deliberate wrong turn in Mineola - where the road should go on top of the tracks rather than below - creating an extremely long, below-grade road crossing reminiscent of early grade-separation projects from the era following the Civil War. Yet there's no grade-separation of the outbound track to the Oyster Bay Branch, despite the multi-billion-dollar price tag! Outbound Oyster Bay trains run by the inbound platform in reverse direction at Mineola, to avoid a directional conflict with mainline tracks to the east, which must nonetheless take place somewhere nearby on the Main Line of the Long Island Railroad.)
The diesel facility at Morris Park is bulky and rather obstructive of passenger service on the Montauk Branch, which, as I have explained many times, is essential as a means of providing a minimum of six mainline tracks to serve the Main Line(s) into Manhattan. It also rules out any possibility of creating additional storage for EMU cars within the vast grade-separated expanse of the Morris Park facilities, for the time being. Perhaps the steep, grade-separated two-track connection running west from the Atlantic Avenue Line should be removed since - absent planned vandalism of the trackage west of Jamaica Station, and/or further neglect of same - it is redundant. That would help to afford some more space.
The location of the early-20th-century stationhouse at Mineola is a dead giveaway - they left 40' between it and the current centerline of the nearest track. It should have been four-tracked: the telltale spacing there is clear evidence; and it should have been done After the Central Line/Hempstead Branch was upgraded: with complete grade separation and a minimum of two tracks all the way to Farmingdale. But that is the kind of project which US planners and engineers hate - because they're fused at the hip with the Freight Carrier Railroad Engineering FRA Revolving Door Cabal - and they will badmouth such projects in your presence, and turn your opinion against them, unless you finally develop some discernment and competence in this subject, your work, to bring them to heel.
Because: during the past 75 years the controlling interests of the US railroads have managed, unchallenged, to sidestep this kind of crucial work almost completely, to a degree that could be considered comical - and probably is, in China for instance, or Spain or France - See Brightline Florida, with the highest fatality rate on any stretch of track in the hemisphere, or maybe the world - that's why we have transit agencies!
3.) Going east from Hillside things were somewhat less developed. Bridges, mostly for two tracks - which are needed to enable six continuous tracks with the two-track Hempstead Branch running on the south - are missing at eleven locations between Hillside and Belmont Park. It might be desirable at points to skew the run of tracks slightly (by a tenth of a degree as occurs at Elmont both before and after addition of the obstructive station) in order to most efficiently add the two new through-tracks without disturbing existing off-site configurations.
The freight operations, track maintenance and layups around Queens Village must be constrained. There is sufficient space in the area which the MTA owns to carry out necessary operations while conserving the space needed for mainline expansion. Queens Village should eventually receive the three-platform treatment, perhaps with a tunnel. It would be necessary to widen the current eastbound platform to have an elevator and stairs within its footprint, and the equipment shanty further east would need to be relocated to make way for the additional two tracks.
With advent of six tracks the current complicated access to and from Belmont Park would be greatly simplified through avoidance of Queens Interlocking, thus simplifying the configuration and train control at the interlocking itself. The removal of the deliberately obstructive Elmont station is necessary if six tracks are to be had. I don't know how it would be possible for fiduciaries not to know and understand the necessity of having six tracks there. The new station is not quite half a mile from the one at Bellerose measuring between the centerpoints of the two. The current four-track configuration at Bellerose is advantageous for getting westbound Main Line trains to Belmont Park, but the better solution is to have westbound Main Line passengers transfer at Floral Park to less crowded Hempstead Branch trains running on a well-served schedule or in special service. The same is true in reverse, assuming passenger-intensive service to Belmont Park, or in regular daily use.
Elmont Station is not the first ludicrous folly to occur at the location. In 2010 you and your planners decided it would be nice to have two super-high-speed crossovers located at a position that is now between the two platforms at Elmont. And they took advantage of the 0.1° skew of the eastbound tracks to make the center-aligned crossover particularly speedy, reducing the difference of its angle from the main tracks being connected to 1.5°. This particular crossover was removed when the station was built, with removal of the other one following more recently. I don't know why, or how the whole succession of track work, station construction and removal projects that took place at Elmont over 12 years was broached to you, the fiduciaries, or how that could have been done forcefully enough to justify in you minds the problematic bridge expansions.
The two crossovers took three motors at each of the switches (of which there were four in the original no doubt exorbitantly priced installation) to move their exceedingly long points, and apparently two to move the points at each of the frogs. This kind of rarefied special trackwork requires frequent maintenance to make all the moving parts and close tolerances safe at speed - or at any speed... While the Queens Interlocking was left to decay. And it still looks particularly dilapidated even now in aerial view, with mostly old wooden ties, and short and slow-looking switches without moveable point frogs.
The original intention before Penn Central I believe was to concentrate a lot of track-changing movements at Queens Interlocking, but apparently your engineers became obsessed with building crossovers all over the general area - where no need for most of them is apparent to me - slow ones and fast ones - It might be they found the idea of staging a cornfield meet with one of those very fast ones intriguing. The point is, you've got to learn enough to know when modifications like newly located switches - or heaven forbid stations - are actually needed; or alternately, when the people in your employ are lying to you.
OUTRO - I encountered another inexplicable new switch on the Port Washington Branch which is noted in my video about improving service on that line, and I wish you'd have a look at it. Though the production is rather shoddily half-extemporized with quickly drawn solutions, I don't find any fault with the solutions now a year and a half after recording it. (I had been thinking about some of them for quite a while.) You should get a cup of coffee or something because it's about two hours long.
But the crucial thing here, and the reason I've gone to the trouble of writing, printing and presenting this to you, is that I want a personal response from the MTA and quick. We've reached a crucial point in this long string of ill-conceived modifications that are now about to start actualizing to extremely detrimental effect. If someone conversant in these things thinks they can tell me otherwise about any of the issues I've described here, then they should contact me and do so. But I doubt there is anything they could say that would convincingly justify any of the programmed actions I am seeking to have stopped. Your action in stopping them is absolutely crucial, and I would say, mandatory.
You can reach me by getting my email address from behind the "about" blurb arrow (a new feature) at the top of my eponymously named YouTube channel: bruce hain.
A large-compass video about all of this, including particulars and graphic representations of my take on necessary future works located to the west of Jamaica, and a detailed look at Hall Interlocking, should be out by New Year's. The drawings have been around for ages, but the act of making videos is considerably more annoying to me than making the drawings, which itself is slow and laborious, especially if you draw something wrong and have to re-draw it. It sometimes gets so cluttered with lines and circles you can't see what you're drawing anyway: curating the files is the half of it.
TO THE CAPITAL PROGRAM COMMITTEE
(Same Committee Different Name)
October 24, 2022
1. For the purpose of comparison: Interlocking A at Penn Station has CLOSE ALIGNMENT (six tracks from the west spaced 12' apart o.c.) resulting in: small Angle of Divergence, with the shortest possible Length of Track. So: the least physical disturbance in diverging trains = A Quick and Highly Efficient Alignment.
2. (Parenthetically: The Jamaica AirTrain Terminal and Approach runs at the wrong angle, so that the AirTrain platform requires a longer walking distance to be reached than it would otherwise: THIS WAS DONE IN ORDER TO TAKE UP AS MUCH SPACE ON THE GROUND AS POSSIBLE.)
3. Compare Penn Station's INTERLOCKING A to the DIAMOND CROSSING west of the New Platform at Jamaica: The diamond crossover must be used by every Atlantic Avenue train that terminates there. Going west, the tracks splay to accommodate a difference in grade, so the crossover gets slower as you go west. Starting out fast, with both tracks running towards each other from the platform, the two diverging tracks then run to sharp curves and big-angle switches at the crossover's west extremity. BECAUSE: Instead of running along with the eastbound track over the brand new Van Wyck Expressway bridge of your Atlantic Avenue Connection, the westbound track takes the place of an old eastbound track on the adjacent-but-quite-distant flyover - where my imagery shows the old track dead-ends. This is being done deliberately to destroy the versatility of the station, by closing the old EB track, leaving only three tracks going to the EB side of the station now from Atlantic Avenue. (Apparently the old track hasn't been removed yet. To use both - by providing a turnout at the current dead end - would result in a problematic directional conflict. [I rode over the "dead end" on 10/24 coming from Brooklyn. The conflict is now realized, though it will probably be ameliorated somehow, with opening of the new platform.]
4. THE NEW BRIDGE over the Van Wyck Expressway appeared earlier in Google Earth as being designed for TWO tracks. It took FIVE YEARS to build that bridge including demolition of the old one starting in 2018. The tracks were removed by 5/2017, if not before. AND NOW IT'S ONLY GOOD FOR A SINGLE TRACK???! If so, it should be removed and rebuilt at the perpetrators' expense.
5. I've measured the curves on the leg that runs over the new bridge: There are two opposing, over-broad, simple curves having 1500' radii - with an 86.3' tangent in between. The loopy, curved alignment runs over the new bridge so as to take as much space as possible on it. AS OPPOSED TO INTERLOCKING A: it's a slow alignment, with a lot of extraneous track.
6. The FRA's Code of Federal Regulations says you can have two opposing spirals just converge like that. But there's no room for spirals or superelevation in an 86.3' tangent. This flies in the face of railroad standards held to for more than 100 years worldwide. The CFR requires 17.5' spacing on Mainline Passenger Track, yet it's only 15' on the new Three-Track Project. Did someone at the LIRR object?? The European standard for 125mph track is somewhat less (13.123') than the longstanding US standard of 13'4" for mainline track. Most LIRR trackage uses the 13'4" US standard. But not the Three-Track Project.
7. If you'd done the Central Branch first you could have four-tracked the Main Line for a fraction of the cost of the Three-Track Project - and without producing the steep, dark and narrow underpasses like something out of the 19th Century - good for a pissoir. The decision to reverse timing of the two projects was A GRAVE ERROR IN JUDGEMENT. (There is some misinformation going around amongst the gainful "cognoscenti" that the Central Branch would require a major, deep-bore tunnel of extreme length. That's a lie. It is an extremely viable, and manifoldly desirable project, with no bored tunnel required.)
8. The Freight Carrier Railroad Engineering FRA Revolving Door Cabal WANTS the over-broad track spacing, because - when their square wheeled, bad brakes, 5-mile-long freight trains derail at 5mph - they are less likely to foul the adjacent track, and then the wreck can be more easily cleared. That's part of their Business Formula, but it's no good for passenger railroading, and CERTAINLY no good for the Long Island Railroad!
9. There was sufficient length on the approach to the 6-track Belmont Terminal to connect it to a new grade-separated replacement for Queens Interlocking, but the new platform at Elmont BLOCKS any possibility of that grade separation project (for now) by hogging all the space at the south. INSTEAD OF GRADE SEPARATION, you are now introducing additional "LADDER TRACKS" to allow direct access to the main line from the fifth station in the space of a mile, and thereby IMPOSING ADDITIONAL DIRECTIONAL CONFLICTS on the Main Line of the Long Island Railroad.
10. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you're too dumb to know this stuff.
11. AND I'VE ARGUED THIS PARTICULAR POINT AT LENGTH: the pre-existing platforms at Jamaica are all 1000' long - contrary to what anyone there is telling you. There is room for all doors of 12-car M7 trains on every one of those platforms. But with two exceptions only, ALL THE SIGNALS ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLATFORMS. It would seem to me that one would re-locate the signals first, BEFORE extending the platforms. The Platform Extension Project is NOT NECESSARY, but the stationmaster or someone at Jamaica has done a great job of propagandizing your personnel on the ground there, to the effect that it is impossible for 12-car trains to platform all their doors. They all argue it quite volubly in my face. The operators are more knowledgeable on the subject.
12. It appears there are electrical outages on the "Jay" side (ostensibly because the tracks are only used to run diesel trains to the platforms.) And on the "Hull" side as well. Trackage appears barely passable, if at all. WHY? Answer: To make for a fraudulent ploy in order to justify the catastrophic and exorbitantly costly modifications your misguided committee intends to authorize. The new modifications will CANNIBALIZE the most versatile Jamaica Station alignments possible, in return for an overpriced, doltishly (and deliberately) oversimplified configuration that depends on having EVERY SINGLE TRAIN stop at Jamaica. IT IS AN IDIOTIC SOLUTION NOT A SOLUTION AT ALL.
I have done a video on the Port Washington Branch WHICH I WOULD LIKE YOU TO WATCH - found at my YouTube channel: bruce hain. I am working to produce another video showing the CORRECT way to maintain the cross-platform versatility at Jamaica while affording significantly increased train capacity (throughput) as well - and will notify you when that one is available. Here is the link to the current video:
Very Truly Yours,
Bruce W. Hain
Jamaica, New York
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