Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby quad50cal » Sun Dec 31, 2017 8:56 pm

mtuandrew wrote:It’s true, Trump earns nothing politically from continuing Gateway.

I think everyone here is reading far too much into the deputy FTA administrator's response. Trump himself was promoting the 50/50 split in a September joint meeting of him, Christie and Cuomo on the topic of Gateway. Trump praised Cuomo as "The Builder" and Trump's personal friend Christie left feeling fully confidant in the agreement.

What's more likely is that the deputy FTA administrator overstepped her bounds and hasn't updated her views that were formed in the Bush admin era. It would be characteristic of the Trump's administration infamously factious infighting.


amtrakhogger wrote:The bottom line here is NJ and NY must figure a way to go it alone on financing the tunnels. With a GOP stranglehold on Washington these days, there really is no incentive to work with any blue state on any issue.
BTW, they just got done raking the blue states over the coals with this "tax" reform legislation.

The tax "reform" bill while terrible for blue states, puts Democrats in a very very strong bargaining position on Trump/McConnell's plan for an infrastructure bill in 2018. Any infrastructure bill would require 60 votes in the Senate since the GOP has maxed out deficit spending that can be done under budget reconciliation rules (which allows a bill to pass with 51 votes).

Trump has already committed to the issue as the hallmark of his 2018 SOTU. If he doesn't back down from the partisan plan of "asset recycling" and PPP primacy that was drawn up by Heritage Foundation hacks, he's not getting a bill this year. Not a good strategy when he and McConnell are hoping to use infrastructure as a salve against a midterms drubbing.


Nasadowsk wrote:It's $40 out of every man, woman, and child in this country to pay for a tunnel that affects the lives of less than 0.1 percent of this country's population.

Foreign aid affects the lives of 0 % of this country's population, yet Afghanistan and Israel combined together receive the total cost of the Gateway project every year. Funny how fiscal conservatives never seem to be bothered that we are giving economic aid to a country that is building a high speed rail network with the central station named after Trump.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby BM6569 » Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:29 pm

Wonder if he might dangle the project in the infrastructure bill next year as a way to entice Dems to vote on it.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby gokeefe » Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:14 pm

BM6569 wrote:Wonder if he might dangle the project in the infrastructure bill next year as a way to entice Dems to vote on it.


In my opinion ... "no need to wonder".

quad50cal wrote:What's more likely is that the deputy FTA administrator overstepped her bounds and hasn't updated her views that were formed in the Bush admin era. It would be characteristic of the Trump's administration infamously factious infighting.


I think this is a really interesting hypothesis. Thanks for posting it.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby east point » Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:28 pm

Trump tunnel ? Oh really cannot imagine it being finished in 3 years much less 7 years ?
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby gokeefe » Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:37 pm

No need. Unless amended the statute naming it such would be on the books forever.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby EuroStar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:18 am

One really needs to ponder what implications this might have for the long term future of Amtrak. It is quite possible that the feud between this administration and Sen. Schumer goes on for at least another 3 years. It is worth noting that Schumer is blocking the FRA appointment and might try to up the ante after this unless the administration appeases him somehow in their supposed infrastructure plan.

What would happen if after an inspection one or both exiting tunnels are deemed unsafe with Amtrak lacking the resources to repair them? This could very well happen if the feuding between the federal government and the states continues. Indeed it is likely to continue for decades -- good luck getting Murphy to sign onto the surcharge idea that Christie just pushed through. Note that such feuding does not require a rail unfriendly federal government. As illustrated by Christie, one governor is enough. It could even happen with a populist governor who prioritizes social spending over rail for the "rich" commuters. If Amtrak's Northeast Corridor gets broken in two unconnected pieces for any period exceeding an year or two, what would be the justification for Amtrak's existence? The loss of revenue will be enormous as practically nobody will schlep on PATH to take a train south from Newark. The high fare paying people will fly again to DC or even Philly. Service on the Corridor will become grossly unprofitable, making future attempts to defund Amtrak much more likely and also bolder. If that happens,I would expect that the rails get sold to the commuter agencies running commuter service over them,while the rest ofthe ealestae gets sold for private development.

While I do not think that there is a sinister plot in this administration to do this, it is actually a very possible scenario should the existing tubes be closed with Amtrak lacking resources to fix them.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby sullysullinburg » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:06 pm

EuroStar wrote:
What would happen if after an inspection one or both exiting tunnels are deemed unsafe with Amtrak lacking the resources to repair them? This could very well happen if the feuding between the federal government and the states continues. Indeed it is likely to continue for decades -- good luck getting Murphy to sign onto the surcharge idea that Christie just pushed through. Note that such feuding does not require a rail unfriendly federal government. As illustrated by Christie, one governor is enough. It could even happen with a populist governor who prioritizes social spending over rail for the "rich" commuters. If Amtrak's Northeast Corridor gets broken in two unconnected pieces for any period exceeding an year or two, what would be the justification for Amtrak's existence? The loss of revenue will be enormous as practically nobody will schlep on PATH to take a train south from Newark. The high fare paying people will fly again to DC or even Philly. Service on the Corridor will become grossly unprofitable, making future attempts to defund Amtrak much more likely and also bolder. If that happens,I would expect that the rails get sold to the commuter agencies running commuter service over them,while the rest ofthe ealestae gets sold for private development.


Very interesting point to bring up here. Even if the whole issue was resolved and funded today, it’s still possible the current tunnels could be deemed unsafe before new ones are open. I’m not sure if Amtrak has a plan if something like this was to happen but, even a few months with Penn being a no go could mean a disaster for Amtrak as a whole. That is assuming they can still even run trains now needing twice the equipment to get from DC to Boston.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby jonnhrr » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:45 pm

Perhaps it is time to examine why this tunnel is so expensive. Consider that the Swiss bored a 57.5 km tunnel under the Alps for about the same price as Gateway is supposed to cost, and I don't think the cost of living in Switzerland is much lower than the NY Metro area. is it graft? Excessive regulations that drive up the cost of doing business? All of the above?

Also note that Switzerland is a much smaller country than the US yest still able to pay for such a project but we "can't afford it".

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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:40 pm

Both of those are factors, Jon, as is the fact that Gateway starts and ends in a major metro area with much higher labor, material, and land prices. It also isn’t a hard-rock tunnel (though Gotthard Base Tunnel does have to deal with fault lines, and the 7 extension is also horrendously expensive as a hard-rock tunnel.)
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby ryanov » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:36 pm

There's plenty of stuff we "simply can't afford," despite the size of the federal budget. Transit and infrastructure in this country are simply not priorities, basically anywhere. We basically half-ass all transportation projects. Look at the 2nd Avenue Subway. Finally partially built, no express tracks. American's love their cars, not those communist trains. Inertia is strong, but eventually I'm looking at getting out of here.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby OrangeGrove » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:45 pm

EuroStar wrote:One really needs to ponder what implications this might have for the long term future of Amtrak. It is quite possible that the feud between this administration and Sen. Schumer goes on for at least another 3 years. It is worth noting that Schumer is blocking the FRA appointment and might try to up the ante after this unless the administration appeases him somehow in their supposed infrastructure plan.

What would happen if after an inspection one or both exiting tunnels are deemed unsafe with Amtrak lacking the resources to repair them? This could very well happen if the feuding between the federal government and the states continues. Indeed it is likely to continue for decades -- good luck getting Murphy to sign onto the surcharge idea that Christie just pushed through. Note that such feuding does not require a rail unfriendly federal government. As illustrated by Christie, one governor is enough. It could even happen with a populist governor who prioritizes social spending over rail for the "rich" commuters. If Amtrak's Northeast Corridor gets broken in two unconnected pieces for any period exceeding an year or two, what would be the justification for Amtrak's existence? The loss of revenue will be enormous as practically nobody will schlep on PATH to take a train south from Newark. The high fare paying people will fly again to DC or even Philly. Service on the Corridor will become grossly unprofitable, making future attempts to defund Amtrak much more likely and also bolder. If that happens,I would expect that the rails get sold to the commuter agencies running commuter service over them,while the rest ofthe ealestae gets sold for private development.

While I do not think that there is a sinister plot in this administration to do this, it is actually a very possible scenario should the existing tubes be closed with Amtrak lacking resources to fix them.


As has been noted, Amtrak could get along just fine without the Gateway tunnels; They are needed for NJ Transit and commuter rail. In fact, just for the sake of argument, even if one of the two existing tubes were shuttered unexpectedly, there would technically remain sufficient capacity in the other for Amtrak (not at all practical, of course).

Still, while Gateway does not completely address the problem of packing more and more trains into an already overburdened Penn Station, it is critical for the region. Nothing has actually been cancelled. A new tunnel will get done ultimately, but the political process has to play out first.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby 35dtmrs92 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:23 pm

While it is absolutely a matter of basic fairness for the federal government to kick in something for Gateway, the current cost estimate is doing no one any favors. If we can bring the cost in line with that of the Second Avenue Subway—to say nothing of projects in Europe—the $5.5 billion that the states plan to borrow would be enough to build the new and rehab the existing tubes with money still left over. All that would have to happen to start construction would be signoffs from existing federal loan programs, a much lower hurdle than asking for new federal grants.

If this New York Times article is to be believed, cost control is largely a matter of doing the following:
1. Have whatever public coordinating agency is in charge of the project negotiate contracts and work rules, instead of just having labor and vendors hash something out for the board to vote up or down on. Getting rid of unions is not the answer. Union or not, when the system 1) has labor and vendors negotiate and spit out an end product contract with no input from the buyer and 2) stipulates that vendors take home a high fixed percentage of the costs, that is an invitation for abuse.
2. Impose strict in-house ethics policies to close the revolving door between public agency management and consultant firms.
3. Use in house engineering forces while minimizing consultants.
4. Cut out accumulated bureaucratic kludge in the procurement approval process. The easier it is for firms to work with an agency, the more firms will bid on a given job.

As someone who volunteered for the Democrats and who falls center-left on the political spectrum, it pains me to say it, but it is unfair to lay all blame on Trump for the current state of affairs. Neither Cuomo nor Obama nor the senators nor the congresspeople acted with any urgency for five years after Christie cancelled ARC to either fund Gateway or grapple with the powerful cadre holding greater New York hostage to a rigged procurement system. It would be nice to have a more predictable POTUS and a more rational GOP, but nothing will move forward on Gateway unless the states take the lead and make serious changes.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby DutchRailnut » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:54 pm

what we fail to address here is Amtrak is owner, its a federal owned corporation. NJT is a tenant it pays user fees.
NY is not even a real partner in this, yet is willing to pay 25%
NJT is willing to pay 25% will they get part ownership ??
Really the Feds are major stake holder in this, no matter if they deny it.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby JoeG » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:29 pm

As far as I know, the Feds never actually committed to paying anything for Gateway. They may eventually sign on, but I think the soonest that can happen is after the next election. If the Dems get control of at least one house of Congress they will have some leverage with Trump. Meanwhile, Schumer's putting a hold on Batory until Trump agrees to fund Gateway just seems dumb.
I think NY and NJ can't afford to wait any longer. They have to start the project themselves and hope that eventually they will get federal money.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby NH2060 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:48 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:what we fail to address here is Amtrak is owner, its a federal owned corporation. NJT is a tenant it pays user fees.
NY is not even a real partner in this, yet is willing to pay 25%
NJT is willing to pay 25% will they get part ownership ??
Really the Feds are major stake holder in this, no matter if they deny it.

+1. This is what too many are either forgetting or fail to realize.

JoeG wrote:As far as I know, the Feds never actually committed to paying anything for Gateway. They may eventually sign on, but I think the soonest that can happen is after the next election. If the Dems get control of at least one house of Congress they will have some leverage with Trump. Meanwhile, Schumer's putting a hold on Batory until Trump agrees to fund Gateway just seems dumb.
I think NY and NJ can't afford to wait any longer. They have to start the project themselves and hope that eventually they will get federal money.

That could be a big "if". In between the booming economy, tougher long overdue foreign policy changes, the tax cuts, too many Democrats shouting "RUSSIA!" and "IMPEACHMENT!", etc. there's quite a bit going in Trump and the GOP's favor. I agree, NY and NJ better get cracking on a funding agreement before more states go red and decide to not help fund this very important project. If Trump himself wants this thing going full speed ahead he would do well to cut a deal with the Democrats (that is, those who are willing to work with him) on this one before the House and Senate go more red. Because if that happens it'll be a lot harder to get a $13 Billion tunnel between NY and NJ (big time blue states) funded. And quite a few in the GOP don't like Trump any more than many Democrats do.
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