NEWARK, N.J — The Mass Transit Tunnel, centerpiece of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project, reached a major milestone that clears the way for federal funding and will allow construction to begin this year.
The release of a “Record of Decision” by the Federal Transit Administration officially completes the project’s exhaustive environmental review process. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez worked extensively to secure this approval from the FTA.
The local financing share of $5.7 billion is already committed, including $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. New Jersey is now looking for a federal funding commitment from the new administration in Washington, D.C.
With train traffic into New York at maximum capacity, the tunnel project will double commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York and also allow improved rail service within New Jersey itself. These improvements will reduce roadway congestion with tens of thousands of additional transfer-free passenger trips each day and generate 6,000 jobs annually during construction until project completion in 2017. The mobility benefits of the MTT will also result in 44,000 permanent jobs being created once the tunnel is in service. Construction will create $4 billion in new personal income, and $10 billion in gross regional product.
“We welcome today’s action by the FTA, as the Mass Transit Tunnel project is a major component of New Jersey’s economic stimulus strategy,” said Governor Corzine. “By putting boots on the pavement and shovels in the dirt, this project will employ thousands of workers and help jumpstart the economy in the present, and will pay dividends toward regional economic growth for decades to come.”
About $600 million in design and construction contracts will be ready for construction bidding as soon as a federal funding agreement is reached Several other contracts, and other work, totaling about $3 billion, will be ready to go to construction soon after.
“We fought hard to secure this approval because the new tunnel will be critical to our region’s future. This new tunnel will help ensure that New Jersey commuters have reliable, convenient and energy-efficient transit options for years to come,” Senator Lautenberg said. “We will keep fighting to reduce congestion and modernize public transit. Our work to secure this approval is a significant step in the right direction.”
“I am working for federal funding for the Mass Transit Tunnel project because it provides a path to short- and long-term economic benefits and helps us advance toward our national objective of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. The tunnel is central to our region’s strategy to create jobs, reduce traffic and lower emissions,” Senator Menendez said.
With the tunnel project creating capacity to serve thousands of additional customers, the NJ TRANSIT commuter rail system will provide more than 254,000 trips each weekday to and from New York in the year 2030, an increase of 46 percent above current levels. This added capacity is expected to eliminate more than 22,000 automobile trips each day, reducing automobile usage by nearly 600,000 vehicle miles each day and relieving pressure on congested roadways, bridges and tunnels.
“This federal approval marks a giant step forward for this transit project of regional and national significance,” said Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “With this approval in place we now look forward to receiving the federal funds necessary for putting shovels in the ground in 2009 and helping our regional economy in this critical time.”
“New York and New Jersey’s cooperative efforts have brought the ARC mass-transit rail tunnel closer to construction,” said Christopher Ward, the Port Authority’s executive director. “The federal government’s approval will help bring jobs to our region and ease a major rail bottleneck. With $3 billion of Port Authority investment combined with the local share from New Jersey, we look forward now to gaining the needed federal funding that will allow us to begin construction.”
“The Federal Transit Administration’s decision confirms the long-term importance of this project to double rail capacity on the congested link between New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan,” said Susan Bass Levin, the Port Authority’s deputy executive director. “In the near term, this project will help spur the economy and create 6,000 construction jobs annually after we obtain the required federal funding.”
“This Record of Decision culminates a comprehensive process of planning, public input and preliminary engineering that puts us in position to advance a project that is crucial for us to meet our long-term commitment of providing convenient public transportation to the residents of New Jersey,” NJ TRANSIT Chairman and Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts said.
“Our customers are eager for us to get started because they understand the impact of this project on their lives and the lives of future generations,” NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Richard Sarles said. “More than doubling train capacity to and from New York in peak periods translates into time-savings, increased service reliability, more travel options and convenience. And not just for those traveling to New York. Those taking the trains within New Jersey will share in the benefits of more trains, more express trains and enhanced reliability.”
The existing 100-year-old commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River has only two tracks that are pushed to their functional limits each rush hour with NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak trains. The Mass Transit Tunnel will more than double peak capacity from 23 trains per hour to 48.
In addition to two new side-by-side single-track tunnels, the project will create new station capacity in Manhattan designed specifically for commuter rail service with wider platforms and more escalators. The new tracks will provide direct access to NYC subway lines, PATH trains and existing Penn Station services.
The project will also create one-seat (direct) commutes to New York for NJ TRANSIT customers on seven commuter rail lines – Main/Bergen County, Port Jervis, Pascack Valley, Montclair-Boonton west of Montclair State University, Morris & Essex west of Dover, Raritan Valley, and North Jersey Coast south of Long Branch, as well as future rail expansion lines.