Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby JCGUY » Fri Mar 01, 2019 9:03 am

ARC was "fully funded" if you assume it would be on-time and on-budget, that Portal did not require replacing, etc. NJ's done a fairly good job getting road projects done on time. The Turnpike widening was on time and under budget, the Goethals Bridge was basically on time (I counted a six month overage) and on budget. The Parkway widening projects seem to be on budget. Transit projects all seem hopelessly in overage.

But why even speculate? You can look at the East Side Access Project which is 4 years away from completion (and always will be) and running 100% over-budget for a preview of the budgetary joys that this project will experience.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby EuroStar » Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:02 pm

I am not even sure what the argument here is for. ARC had about $3B from the Feds, about $3B from the Port Authority and the rest was to be taken care of by NJ including any cost overruns. Cristie, as a car guy, had never commuted to the city, but had been gotten stuck many times at "the Merge". He did not want to increase the gas tax as that would stop all his presidential ambitions dead in their tracks and as a result had no money to fix "the Merge" or the Pulaski Skyway. The solution he found was to use NJ's money designed for the ARC to fix "the Merge", the "NJ's half" of the Port Authority money for the Pulaski and "to hell" with the $3B from the Feds. His thinking was "who cares about giving up the Fed money?" at a time when rejecting Fed money for rail projects was in vogue (think Florida and Wisconsin). Using "NJ's half" of the Port Authority money for the Pulaski was borderline illegal as the Pulaski is not an approach to the Holland Tunnel, but Obama's SEC did not seem interested enough in pursuing that, probably for political reasons, so the Port Authority got away with a fine and a scolding. I believe that Obama's administration made behind the scenes effort to change Cristie's mind, going as far as promising to find ways to cover half of the overruns, but Cristie did not budge as that would have left him with the problem of how to fund "the Merge" elimination and the Pulaski. At that point the Feds recognized that they would never get sincere cooperation from the Cristie administration in NJ, so they turned the other way and for several years in a row rejected NJ requests for money for the Portal Bridge and other rail projects. Once Sandy's effects on the Hudson Tunnels became apparent with the multiple commuting disasters during several summers, the Cristie administration mellowed its opposition to rail. That allowed the awarding of a small TIGER grant during the last Obama year for preliminary work on the Portal Bridge. Since then though, the Feds represented by the Trump Administration have turned really adverse to passenger rail and as a result NJ has gotten zilch. In the meanwhile Cristie had no other choice, but to raise the gas tax and was replaced by a more rail friendly governor. This is just the history of it. Plain and simple.

Now as to project management. You will be surprised how little that matters. The real issue is always at the top, and in any public construction project, the top is a public official. If it is an elected public official who is clearly responsible you can get results as long as that official is interested in the project. Just look at how Cuomo made the Tappan Zee bridge, and the LIRR third track and Metro-North's Penn Access (jury is still out on that) move after many years of stagnation. In NJ Cristie had personal interest in getting to the beach or elsewhere, so "the Merge" elimination happened. He had no interest in any rail project, so nothing happened (indeed so much time was wasted that NJ will lose some of its Sandy recovery money). Projects like the Gateway tunnels are so much worse due to the fact that there is not one elected official or even one organization responsible for it, so there is nobody whose name or reputation is at stake. The Feds are blaming the states. In turn NY and NJ are blaming the Feds and Amtrak. And there is no end in sight.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby Defiant » Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:04 pm

Very good summary. Except I think now the current NJ Governor and Congressional delegation are very interested in moving Gateway ahead. I think they understand the calamity that will occur if even one tube needs to be closed. The problem right now is the hostile administration in Washington. But NJ officials could make one concrete contribution to the project by at least describing how they will pay for the NJ share of the work. Or better yet actually raise the needed revenue by borrowing/moderate increase in NJT tickets to cover the project/maybe increase in tolls on GSP , etc. If they actually give their share of the money to Gateway development corporation then NYS might do the same. And that might be enough to at least start the TBM and dig the tunnels. At which point both states might start complaining about the FEDS. But I doubt that will happen...
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby Defiant » Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:19 pm

JCGUY wrote:ARC was "fully funded" if you assume it would be on-time and on-budget, that Portal did not require replacing, etc. NJ's done a fairly good job getting road projects done on time. The Turnpike widening was on time and under budget, the Goethals Bridge was basically on time (I counted a six month overage) and on budget. The Parkway widening projects seem to be on budget. Transit projects all seem hopelessly in overage.

But why even speculate? You can look at the East Side Access Project which is 4 years away from completion (and always will be) and running 100% over-budget for a preview of the budgetary joys that this project will experience.


In addition, I heard the HLBR construction was fairly close to schedule and budget. SO NJ has done quite a few projects reasonably close to budget/schedule. But of course none were of the same complexity as ARC and/or Gateway. But it is unfair to assume that NJT would've run into the same problems as ESA. But even if it would, what is the alternative? Wait until the tunnel needs to be closed or collapses and complain about cost overruns.

As to the Portal, that was never officially part of ARC. Yes it needs replacement but I see it as much less urgent issue requiring substantially less money. If idiot Christy did not kill ARC, I am sure Obama administration would've helped with Portal funding...
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby JCGUY » Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:40 pm

Regarding the Turnpike widening (the "Merge" referred to above). Christie did not initiate that project. It was initiated by Codey and Corzine. Christie saw it to completion, but it wasn't his baby, That project was 100% toll supported and did not benefit from federal funds, ARC funds or any general tax money. The Turnpike turns a profit, part of which is diverted to NJ Transit.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby CharlieL » Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:14 pm

I'm pretty sure the "NJ being responsible for any cost overruns" bit is why Christie wouldn't support it. Look at for example California high speed rail. Projects of this magnitude are notorious for very large cost overruns. The Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee replacement) bridge is another example. I don't think any rational person could have justified it.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Mar 01, 2019 5:41 pm

How about NJ just digs as much tunnel as it can afford, leaves the TBMs in place with keys in the ignition, and tells PANYNJ/Amtrak/NYS to either consider that their full share, or not get tunnels at all?
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby Greg Moore » Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:17 pm

Let's not forget that the ARC was a tunnel to nowhere. While it would have solved some issues, in the long run, tunnels that actually connect to the existing tracks at Penn Station will be far more useful.

So... in some ways ARC being cancelled was a somewhat good thing. Had it been built, I think any chances of Gateway would be even lower than it is now.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby bostontrainguy » Sat Mar 02, 2019 8:12 am

As I mentioned above, there would have been a well deserved uproar if millions were spent on ARC and then the old tunnels failed and then they were asking for millions again to build another tunnel since the first tunnel was so poorly designed it was useless.

Christie did us a favor. End of story.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby CharlieL » Sat Mar 02, 2019 10:50 am

Does anyone have a handle on how much these NJ commuters pay in income tax to the state and city of New York? An answer might clarify who would really lose if (when?) the tunnels were to fail? Similarly, how much these commuters pay in state and local taxes in New Jersey would help. And throw in lost federal revenue for one or both tunnels being out of service. Mostly what I am hearing is "the other guy loses more". But no numbers. And neither NJ nor NY, not to mention the feds, can afford a big hit.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby Nasadowsk » Sat Mar 02, 2019 11:12 am

Greg Moore wrote:Let's not forget that the ARC was a tunnel to nowhere. While it would have solved some issues,


It was 8-14 billion (estimated, who knows what the real cost would have been), for a six track stub terminal under Macy's. I mean, that's great if you want to go to Macy's, I guess. But, it also wouldn't have had much capacity.

in the long run, tunnels that actually connect to the existing tracks at Penn Station will be far more useful.


Alternative G would have been even better, but nobody in the NYC metro can be an adult and sit and negotiate, so that was never going to happen.

So... in some ways ARC being cancelled was a somewhat good thing. Had it been built, I think any chances of Gateway would be even lower than it is now.


Lower? They'd be nil. Billions of dollars for Amtrak's handful of passengers a day? Penn would effectively be a terminal for the LIRR and whatever north of NYC traffic Amtrak would have left. The rest would ditch at Newark or Hoboken. On the brighter side, it'd make life for LIRR riders nicer, not to mention make redeveloping Sunnyside an open/shut case... Realistically, it'd be a stupid move.

Christie gets slammed for killing ARC more because of him than the project. It was a bad idea, it was a bad idea short term, it was a worse one long term. Gateway wouldn't even exist if NJT went forward with it. We'd ultimately be stuck with a broken up NEC, a constrained NJT, and more of transportation mess in the NY area than we have now.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby chuchubob » Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:12 pm

Nasadowsk wrote:Christie gets slammed for killing ARC more because of him than the project. It was a bad idea, it was a bad idea short term, it was a worse one long term. Gateway wouldn't even exist if NJT went forward with it. We'd ultimately be stuck with a broken up NEC, a constrained NJT, and more of transportation mess in the NY area than we have now.

I disagree with the last two sentences, Phil. Amtrak had already started planning for Gateway before Christie cancelled ARC, because ARC wouldn't have addressed the problems with the crumbling existing tunnels.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby andegold » Sat Mar 02, 2019 1:39 pm

CharlieL wrote:Does anyone have a handle on how much these NJ commuters pay in income tax to the state and city of New York? An answer might clarify who would really lose if (when?) the tunnels were to fail? Similarly, how much these commuters pay in state and local taxes in New Jersey would help. And throw in lost federal revenue for one or both tunnels being out of service. Mostly what I am hearing is "the other guy loses more". But no numbers. And neither NJ nor NY, not to mention the feds, can afford a big hit.


Only New York City residents pay income tax in New York City. If you live on the Island or upstate you pay only New York State income tax. If you come in to the city from CT or NJ you pay non-resident income tax to NYS and nothing to NYC. The tax rate for NY hits 6% at around $20 - $30K and approaches 7% as you hit a million or two (depending on married vs single). The maximum rate of 8.82% doesn't kick in until a million ofr singles or 2 million for married filers. As these rates are generally equal to or greater than the rates charged by CT or NJ the non-residents effectively pay income tax on their wages only in NY. They pay their home state full freight on their investment income.

Obviously, as has been pointed out, they pay property taxes locally. Those taxes pay for local roads, police and schools. They don't pay for highways, prisons, universities, state parks (beaches), or courts. Those things need to be paid for out of tolls, gas taxes, and sales tax.

In 2017 there a little under 100,000 daily boardings on NJT at NY Penn. This is boardings, not passengers. I can't find a comparable number for the PABT but it looks like it's probably around 250,000 daily customers which I think means arrivals and departures so we'll cut that in half. That gives us 350,000 commuters plus the George Washington Bridge bus terminal, Academy and other private lines that pick up and drop off on the streets of midtown and downtown, drivers, and the ferries, and, oh yes, PATH. Let's round up to 400,000. Let's further assume an average annual salary of $85,000. I think it's probably higher. You can't afford to commute in for much less than that and of course the high end is much, much higher but since I'm going to use a flat tax rate of 6% and ignore the progressive nature of taxes it should even things out a little bit. 400,000 commuters * $85,000 average salary * 6% tax rate = $2,040,000,000 in taxes. That's 2 billion dollars flowing out of Trenton to Albany. Now, add in all the sales tax those commuters pay on their lunches and dinners and shopping. That's an enormous burden for NJ and an enormous windfall for NY. How many jobs could be "bought" for Weehawken, Jersey City, Newark and Paterson with those tax dollars? Even something as simple as telecommuting, so long as it was "for the convenience of the employer" and not the employee would shift the cash flow from Albany back down to Trenton. So, tell me again, how this was all about highways and petty politics and not about greater economics.
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:23 pm

So NJT is stuck with the "ARC's "Bellmouth" tunnelheads which are now fenced off,was that the only "remains" of ARC?
There was a thought of using the ARC "Bellmouths as the start point for Gateway tunnels?
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Re: Amtrak Gateway Tunnels

Postby BandA » Sat Mar 02, 2019 11:55 pm

andegold wrote:...While the various bridge projects in the area (Tappan Zee, Goethals, Bayonne) may have been completed on or near on time what was the last tunnel project anywhere in the country that was finished on time or on budget? The only recent examples of tunnels that I can think of are the Big Dig and East Side Access. Neither of which are shining examples of successful project management. What makes you think that ARC would have been any better?
The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston was built on-budget. Can't remember if it was on-time. Trench scooped out, tunnel built in segments in a shipyard, barged in, sunk, connected together then covered. I don't think the dirt from the harbor was declared to be contaminated like the Hudson River dirt. Everything else about the Boston Big Dig project was wildly over budget, late, and defective in design, construction and supervision, including a smaller tunnel under a channel that they decided to use the novel construction technique of freezing mud which was a total disaster.
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