On November 7 at a symposium held at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, Port Authority chair Anthony Coscia called on the federal government to fast track the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel project. Coscia asked the feds to expedite approvals for the project, which would include a new rail tunnel linking New Jersey with Midtown Manhattan, and to include it in the economic stimulus package currently before congress.
“The Port Authority is doing whatever we can to help the region through these challenging times,’’ Coscia said. “But in order to maximize our capital spending—and do the most good for the region’s economy—we also need a strong partner at the federal level.”
His remarks followed an October hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in which business executives and labor unions petitioned Congress to provide $300 billion for new infrastructure projects. At the hearing, New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine told the committee to “turn this period of adversity into a time of opportunity. The nation’s construction industry is on its back, our infrastructure is deteriorating, and in too many cases, compromised. Let’s put people to work, build roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, wastewater treatment systems.”
Critics of the stimulus plan claim that infrastructure projects do not result in a quick increase in jobs because they take so long to plan and execute. But many public works projects have been in the works long enough that they are ready to go. According to a report in The New York Times, 3,000 highway projects totaling $18 billion could get rolling within 30 to 90 days, while $8 billion in mass transit projects could launch within 90 days.
The ARC Tunnel project itself was launched in 1995, when it was picked out of 137 alternatives identified by the ARC Major Investment Study. ARC includes the construction of two new tracks in the Meadowlands, two new single-track tunnels under the Hudson River, and an expansion of Penn Station. The project will increase trans-Hudson commuter capacity, which is currently near its limit, and improve security by creating a redundant system to accompany the existing trans-Hudson tunnel, which the Pennsylvania Railroad completed in 1909.
ARC is advancing through the environmental review and early engineering phase. The Port Authority, NJ Transit, and the state of New Jersey have already earmarked $5.75 billion for the project, roughly two-thirds the estimated cost. With federal assistance, Coscia said, the ARC Tunnel could begin construction as early as 2009.