M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

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M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby time » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:04 pm

It's been well documented that NJ Transit has capacity issues at Portal Bridge and the North River tunnels. The pocket track project near Summit station got me thinking... what other capacity improvements could NJT make that would make my commute, as an M&E line traveler, a dreamy breeze?

So, I got to thinking about all of the places where my trains seem to slow down. For the most part, service west of Summit is fairly reliable, save for a random equipment malfunction or a tree across the wires. So, I don't believe a capacity issue really exists west of Summit. Just east of Summit, however, is another issue. When taking an express train west, I find it usually begins to slow down just past Maplewood, then comes to a crawl and eventually a stop just outside of Millburn. Then we "inch" our way up the hill to Summit. For the first 10 years I didn't pay much attention to this, but now I've noticed this daily slow down is highly correlated to where the tracks go from three to two (no laughing at my lack of railroad terminology, or that it took me that long to figure this out).

Looking at a satellite view of the area, it seems that there is an awful lot of private property that would need to be bought up to extend the three track railroad all the way to Summit, which was my initial "aha!" conclusion of what NJT should do. Is there anything else that NJT could do to decrease the effect of this bottleneck? One idea I had was extending the three track to just past Millburn station, so that only Short Hills station would "delay" an express train. Of course, this does't really help that much, since a train would still be blocking the line. Another idea was to install interlockings that would allow, for instance, a westbound express train to pass by a local at Short Hills. But this seems like a complicated maneuver that would ultimately take just as long as sitting behind the local. From a historical perspective, why did they not triple track all the way to Summit? It seems like one of those thorny issues that has a really good reason, but makes for a complication in service that people bang their heads about for hundreds of years.

Another area I've noticed a slow down is approaching Newark Broad Street station from the east. Again, looking at the satellite image - aha! - three tracks to two tracks, then back to three tracks. A bottleneck for sure, given Montclair-Boonton line trains also traverse this part of the road, but this one has a good reason--a very old looking bridge spanning the Passaic River. So, long term, would it make sense for NJT to plan a three track replacement for this bridge, and lay a third track where only two exists now? It seems like they have the room to shoehorn it in.

Putting all of these dreams together: three tracks from Summit to the Northeast Corridor, a new Portal Bridge with four tracks, and a two new rail tunnels to create four tracks into a lovely, airy, new Penn Station in New York City. Just imagine how smooth of a NYC commute that would be!
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby nick11a » Mon Jul 20, 2015 10:19 pm

A once regular contributor here "in the know" who is well respected here, "theBigC," once said that adding the third track between Mullburn and Summit wasn't as far off as we might think. We have been told that discussions have been made for this. Sadly, between funding and logistical challenges, it seems likely that these plans will never see the light of day, at least not anytime soon. Putting that aside, yes, such an improvement would indeed be a tremendous improvement on the Morris and Essex Lines, at least during rush hours. Trains are scheduled tightly during rush hours in this area. The third track would provide much-needed breathing room.

As for running expresses around locals at Millburn, this is possible already with the present Millburn Interlocking and has been done before. There are two switches that run from Track 3 to 1 at the interlocking... that's the key to making it work. The interlocking is rarely used in this fashion however these days. Track 2 (normal eastbound track) is pretty much always set in the east direction and is rarely reversed for westbound traffic, although it is capable of doing so. To quote another one-time contributor here, "Arrow3," the "Far Hills Express" train to Gladstone used to run over around trains at Millburn and Short Hills by way of heading west on Track 2 through Millburn and Short Hills. This express train, which I believe ran express to Millington, has not been in the timetable for at least 12 years.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby EuroStar » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:11 am

I have heard that NJTransit is believed to already own enough right of way to triple track from Milburn to Summit, however it is a narrow right of way and this being a very rich area guess how many lawsuits will come with complaints about noise and such. Unless the number of commuters from west of Summit doubles or triples you will not see this talked much about. The bridge at Newark underwent maintenance about a decade ago and is in a good condition. I do not expect it to be replaced within the next 50 years as money will be directed to more immediate needs.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby bleet » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:48 am

The NJ state rail plan actually proposes a third track from Millburn to Summit.

http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/NJStateRailPlan.pdf

Whether or not that ever happens is anyone's guess.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby nick11a » Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:14 pm

bleet wrote:The NJ state rail plan actually proposes a third track from Millburn to Summit.

http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/NJStateRailPlan.pdf

Whether or not that ever happens is anyone's guess.


Yup, it has been talked about for years and it will continue be talked about in the future. It would be a tremendous upgrade, but if it happens, it is still a way off as that document suggests. A first needed improvement which will happen is the upgrading of interlocking speeds at Summit and the building of the pocket track, as discussed in another thread here in Forum 69. As a side note, I like the cover of that document. It looks like a Conrail freight train, probably from Metuchen, on the NEC.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby time » Tue Jul 21, 2015 7:01 pm

Wow! So much information in that PDF of the State Rail Plan. Thank you for posting. And so many dreams yet to be realized, haha. Thank you all for your replies.

Well, it's good to hear that NJT at least recognizes that a third track between Summit and Millburn is needed. I've got 25+ years left of working. Think I'll see it by then? Expressing trains past the locals utilizing the eastbound track sounds like an easy enough solution, until of course an eastbound train needs to come through.

I'm surprised they don't also feel a third track between Newark Broad Street and the Northeast Corridor is needed. I've been on many trains that have been queued waiting to enter or pass through Newark Broad Street. A train set crapping out along that stretch would certainly make the commute a nightmare. The train traffic in that spot is even greater than between Summit and Millburn, with the additional Montclair-Booton trains passing through. As another poster noted the bridge over the Passaic has a lot of life left in it. However, one must consider whether it's useful life and it's serviceable life is tied. Do they actually need to wait for it to fall down into the water before replacing it (like they seem to be doing with Portal Bridge...) or can they request a replacement when it is no longer useful for the current demand? Rhetorical question. I know the answer...

One thing that I've noticed is that the "big" projects seem to get done, or at least get some attention before being killed off by a politician. I wonder what type of success NJT would see with bundling smaller projects together into a big project, rather than applying for separate monies for each smaller project. So, for example, if they bundled my dreams together as "Midtown Direct Service Capacity Improvements" and included 50% of Portal Bridge rebuilding, triple track and a new bridge just east of Newark Broad Street, triple track from Millburn to Summit, the new Summit pocket track and any other small upgrades needed, along with similar improvements for the Gladstone line and the Montclair-Booton line (whatever those may be), would they be more successful at obtaining federal and state money? Sure, all of those projects may have a price tag in the billions. But, that price tag and project scope could help to get all those smaller projects visibility and awareness in the press, and the riding public would have something to clamor for, rather than just being pissed that their train is late again. NJT could drop a pamphlet on seats that describes the operational issues in a straightforward, no jargon way - then provide the corresponding solution that the project would address. Any precedent for that, other than the now infamous Access to the Region's Core projects?
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby nick11a » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:30 pm

Yes, alas your you hinted, ARC was well supported. Pretty much everyone saw the need for the project, although some weren't exactly happy with the particular plans for it. This divide in public opinion (a la tunnel to the basement of Macy's or nowhere) made killing the project easier. Christie's main reason for it was the price tag on NJ.

Back to more specifically Morris and Essex issues, I don't think you've got any shot of seeing a third track east of Newark across the river. Heck, I'll be pretty amazed if we see a third track between Summit in Millburn in our lifetime.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby bleet » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:52 am

I'm actually not sure bundling the projects would make them easier to get through. Many times different projects get funds from different places so bundling might complicate that. Also, the bigger the price tag, the more opposition can be mustered.

Interesting note that the Passaic River bridge is actually a double-decker and at some point in the distant past trains operated on the lower level as well. You can see some of the approaches still on the east side of the river. Can't find more background information about it at the moment but I'll keep looking.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby EuroStar » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:25 am

bleet wrote:I'm actually not sure bundling the projects would make them easier to get through. Many times different projects get funds from different places so bundling might complicate that. Also, the bigger the price tag, the more opposition can be mustered.

Interesting note that the Passaic River bridge is actually a double-decker and at some point in the distant past trains operated on the lower level as well. You can see some of the approaches still on the east side of the river. Can't find more background information about it at the moment but I'll keep looking.


Search the forum. There is information on this bridge somewhere. If I recall correctly it was moved from a position further downstream when the line was elevated at Newark. I do not recall if it ever carried two levels of traffic at its previous location. It it did it might have been PATH or streetcars.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby time » Wed Jul 22, 2015 6:21 pm

I think today is the perfect example of how effective a strong commuter voice (and the ridiculous delays that prompt the angered tones) is to getting rail transportation improvements funded. Even the New York Times ran an article about the delays. Interestingly, you won't find anything on NJ.com's "front page" tonight. Instead, they are running an article about a 287 construction plan notice, and cars that can be hacked into. Hmmm.

Anyways, the drum beat is banging now. Will it continue? Probably not, but at least some politicians will be forced to make a comment. Or not.

Asked about the latest service interruptions, Mr. Christie’s office referred questions to New Jersey Transit, which blamed maintenance problems on Amtrak.

nytimes.com
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby nick11a » Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:13 pm

time wrote:I think today is the perfect example of how effective a strong commuter voice (and the ridiculous delays that prompt the angered tones) is to getting rail transportation improvements funded. Even the New York Times ran an article about the delays. Interestingly, you won't find anything on NJ.com's "front page" tonight. Instead, they are running an article about a 287 construction plan notice, and cars that can be hacked into. Hmmm.

Anyways, the drum beat is banging now. Will it continue? Probably not, but at least some politicians will be forced to make a comment. Or not.

Asked about the latest service interruptions, Mr. Christie’s office referred questions to New Jersey Transit, which blamed maintenance problems on Amtrak.

nytimes.com


Yup, somebody blames somebody, who blames somebody else, who blames somebody else.....and so it goes.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:10 pm

EuroStar wrote:
bleet wrote:I'm Interesting note that the Passaic River bridge is actually a double-decker and at some point in the distant past trains operated on the lower level as well. You can see some of the approaches still on the east side of the river. Can't find more background information about it at the moment but I'll keep looking.
There is information on this bridge somewhere. If I recall correctly it was moved from a position further downstream when the line was elevated at Newark. I do not recall if it ever carried two levels of traffic at its previous location. It it did it might have been PATH or streetcars.

The lower level of the Newark draw bridge (built by Lackawanna Railroad 1903) was for local freight service in Newark, running on street level (the M&E line was elevated when Broad Street Station was built).
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby time » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:09 pm

112 years old! Wow. I knew it was old, but 112 is OLD. It's actually older than Portal Bridge.

I'll agree that it does look like it's in good shape. It is a nice looking bridge. Too bad it doesn't have a third track on the second level. I guess they'd never imagine back in 1903 it would be needed one hundred twelve years later.

It must be approaching it's serviceable life, no? At some point the cost to maintain it would exceed the cost to replace it, i'd imagine.
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby time » Sat Aug 01, 2015 9:10 am

A NJT press release from 2004 suggests that Newark Drawbridge will indeed be replaced within our lifetime, and hints at "system expansion," which probably means extending the third track through this area.

The first phase of the work, awarded to Edwards & Kelcey of Morristown, will include an evaluation of the existing structure and the development of alternate improvements that will extend the useful life of the structure another 20 years – all part of the Corporation’s “Back-to-Basics” initiatives. Phase I also will include a conceptual design that will provide for subsequent replacement as part of future system expansion. full release
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Re: M&E Capacity Improvements (Dreams, Not Reality)

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Sat Aug 01, 2015 4:02 pm

The bridge over the Passaic River on the M&E needs to be replaced somewhere down the road. 2004 is long gone:It's obviously the third quarter of 2015. It would be very nice to have a triple track railroad from Harrison Interlocking, I believe to where the third track ends just before the bridge, to the east end of NWK Broad Street Station. You not only have the M&E and Gladstone, but you also have the Mtc-Btn Line. That alone would probably solve capacity issues along the M&E.

It would be beneficial to have a third track between Millburn and Summit especially since that stretch of track is the last few miles where the M&E Line and Gladstone Branch trains overlap. Not happening anytime soon. I believe that the original Lackawanna Railroad was two tracks from Millburn to Summit.

When that pocket track gets built at Summit, that will help movements terminating there not tie up the rest of the main.
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