Posts tagged with "Amtrak Gateway Project":

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House Republicans: Fund border wall and new tunnel under the Hudson River

Congressional House Republicans released two separate spending bills detailing proposals that would impact the Gateway Project and the US-Mexico border wall, on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The House Appropriations Committee unveiled its $56.5 billion Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill that budgets $900 million to the Gateway Program, a project many consider critical to the nation's transportation infrastructure. The Committee's $44.3 billion Homeland Security bill allocates $1.6 billion to construct the border wall. In a win for the $24 billion Gateway Program, the spending bill includes $328 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks, grants for rail repairs, and direct funding for new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge. (More details on the multifaceted program can be found here.) President Donald Trump’s administration had pulled out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation a week ago, casting doubt on the administration's support. According to Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston provides $3 billion to the U.S. economy, making the Gateway Program a priority. "Safe and reliable passenger rail travel through New Jersey and New York City is essential to that economic productivity," he said in a statement reported by NJ.com. But one of Trump’s key promises during his presidential campaign—building the much debated and controversial border wall separating the U.S and Mexico—is also one step closer to fruition. The $1.6 billion earmarked for the wall fully meets the White House request for construction funds, according to the committee. “Globalization, cyber-security, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it," Frelinghuysen said in a press release. “The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders.” The $1.6 billion earmark is also likely to set up a government shutdown when the bill makes it way to the Senate, where Democrats are sure to object to any kind of wall funding. Funding for both projects is not yet guaranteed. Both bills will have to pass the full House and get approval from the Senate, before getting signed into law by President Trump.
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New report on Hudson River rail tunnel anticipates costs rising to $13 billion

The expected costs of a new Hudson River rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey—part of the wider Gateway Project—have risen after an evaluation of the project’s environmental and economic impacts. The report, released last Thursday by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT), examines the environmental impact of the project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to The New York Times, the estimated total costs of the tunnel were calculated to be $13 billion, a drastic increase from the $7.7 billion that had originally been announced. The impact study for the tunnel is a necessary step before construction can begin. Regarded as one of the most critical infrastructure projects in the U.S., this new tunnel is expected to help replace the century-old one currently used by NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak trains. Due to the old tunnel’s steady deterioration and damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, local officials are concerned that its continued use will require major repairs. Such repairs will very likely be a major disruption to the region’s transit networks and economy. Additionally, the security of the project’s funding has become precarious and uncertain under the Trump Administration, which “has not committed to providing federal financing for the tunnel, raising questions about whether it supports the project,” as The New York Times states. Most recently, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) withdrew its cooperation from the Gateway Program Development Corporation. While this does not mean the project has been denied funding, the DOT said “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide." For more on the Gateway program and other transportation plans for the New York metro region, see our previous coverage here.
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U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program

Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
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New petition wants to transform New York’s commuter infrastructure

The creation of a new or renovated Pennsylvania Station for New York has become a staple for the local daily news.

It is often presented as an architecture issue: the need for an alternative to the seriously flawed 1968 building on the site, or a quick fix for its 21 aging rail tracks. But ReThink Studio, a transportation think tank, has a well-thought proposal that considers a future for the station as a node in a much larger regional plan. It makes the point that any proposal to transform the station is meaningless unless its relationship to a much larger area is considered and well thought out. It is not just an architectural issue, but a planning issue that needs to be addressed by all levels of government.

Today, New York’s commuter rail infrastructure is a nightmare. Fixing this starts with phase one of Amtrak’s Gateway project for two new Hudson River Tunnels. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said that all of us need to push for this effort.

You can watch a video of ReThink Studio's plans below. If you are convinced by its conclusions, there is now a way to contact our elected officials and ask them to support the plan. By signing this petition, the studio will send a letter to President Donald Trump; Senator Mitch McConnell; Representatives Paul Ryan, Bill Shuster, Rodney Frelinghuysen; and Senators Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe, and Thad Cochran.

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Port Authority Bus Terminal to get total reset and other breaking news from annual RPA conference

The Regional Plan Association (RPA)'s Assembly conference in New York City, which focuses on urban planning, infrastructure, and transportation, was marked by an acute sense of crises and challenge. "You need to start shouting about how bad things are, how irresponsible" we've been as a nation, former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. He bellowed how the U.S.'s infrastructure released a D+ rating. Biden was on hand to receive the RPA's John Zuccotti Award. In addition to being a longtime advocate for Amtrack, the noted train enthusiast Biden administered the infrastructure-heavy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It's an "easy message to deliver," he said, "that our infrastructure is crumbling and making America less competitive." Challenges associated with major projects like the Gateway Program (which promises new rail tunnels under the Hudson, among other improvements), the Second Avenue Subway, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal loomed large as the conference started off. In the Assembly's large morning panel, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), highlighted how the region's "accountability and governance model" needs to be reviewed. If government officials have clear ownership, it's better, she said, citing Governor Cuomo's intervention into the Second Avenue Subway. Rohit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs and co-chair of the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, gave a preview of what the RPA would propose when the Plan comes out later this year. "What has happened to these institutions?" he asked, arguing that it wasn't politics, ineptitude, nor lack of funding that was causing major regional transportation projects to falter and slow. It's the "very shape and structure of these agencies" that were the cause, he said, adding that they're "deeply flawed" in how they're organized, funded, and how responsibilities are divided. He discussed how other global cities, such as London, Honk Kong, and Los Angeles, have all restructured their transportation agencies in the last 20 or so years, consolidating power on a more local level or finding new arrangements more reflective of their needs. "It is time for reinvention," he concluded, saying the Fourth Plan would address these issues head-on. (He gave no concrete hints about the Plan itself, though in one example of dysfunction, he cited how commuter rail authorities are divided by the Hudson.)
There were major project updates at the "Crossing the Hudson" panel, which sought to address the fundamental challenge of improving transportation across (and under) the Hudson to connect New York and New Jersey. Tom Wright, president of the RPA, kicked off the panel by showing how New Jersey added 65,000 new cross-Hudson commuters from 1990 to 2010 and stood to add another 75,000 from 2010 to 2040. (By another estimate, it would be 110,000 by 2040 if you include New Jersey commuters going to all five boroughs.) Forty-three percent of current commutes happen via bus and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is desperately needed. Additionally, if one track is lost on the current 106-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson, Penn Station can only handle six trains during a peak hour (as compared to 24 otherwise).
Put simply, "New Jersey transit systems are in a state of crises," said panel member and New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon. While PATH is in decent shape funding-wise (thanks to PANYNJ tolls), the rest of the state's transit system is severely underfunded. John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, framed the challenge a little differently: 10 percent of the country's GDP is in the New York metro area, but crossing the Hudson via rail its "single point of failure." A new rail bridge, dubbed the Portal Bridge and located over the Hackensack River, is ready for construction but is awaiting federal funding. The new rail tunnel's environmental impact statement should be released in 60 days, Pocari added, and a financing plan is also in the works. Those two projects (the new bridge and tunnel) constitute phase one of the Gateway Program; phase two includes a new Penn Station. Biden called the tunnel "literally the single most important project in the country." A new PABT is also essential to the trans-Hudson transportation question; the current station will require replacement in 15 to 20 years due to structural deterioration, said Andrew Lynn, director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)'s Planning and Regional Development Department. (Lynn sometimes holds meetings with local officials and stakeholders in the PABT, using the shaking walls to drive home his point.) The PANYNJ has about $3.5 billion set aside for the terminal, but despite numerous attempts to formulate a plan over the years, none have been successful. The PANYNJ is effectively "pushing the reset button" on the project, and while the group will learn from past failures, "we're really starting over," he said. (Gordon suggested expanding the current PABT upwards by building off the current structure. This would expand capacity while minimzing local impact.) However, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), countered that "global cities are not building big bus terminals"; rail is much more efficient. "One enormous bus terminal" is not the solution, she said, citing the failings of Robert Moses and how "we don't think that way now." Lastly, the panel touched on the replacement and expansion of Penn Station. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture Urbanism, who has put forward a plan to adapt the existing structure, explained his plan to move Madison Square Garden to the back of the old Farley Building, allowing the adaptive reuse of the current Garden's superstructure for a new train station that would make the neighborhood a "world-class address." (ReThink Studio, who was also present at the Assembly, has critiqued aspects of this plan.) Chakrabarti also sounded the alarm that office space might be built in the back of the Farley Building to fund Amtrack's construction of a new Amtrack platforms on the rails that run under the Farley Building. Those platforms, he added, would only serve Amtrack and exclude regional rail. He also warned that the current Penn Station was a safety hazard awaiting disaster: with such low ceilings, for instance, a smoke event would be disastrous in the already-overcapacity space. In sum, the panel portrayed a moment of crises but also a potential reconsideration of the current status quo. Once the current crises have been averted, panelists agreed it would make the most sense for New Jersey to emphasize trains over buses for a trans-Hudson commute, as rail is overall far more efficient (albeit also more expensive) a system for moving people. After this, an afternoon panel, "Planning for the Transportation Revolution," sought to address how ride sharing and autonomous vehicle could reshape the urban landscape. Bruce Schaller, principal at Schaller Consulting (which specializes in urban transportation policy), and Matt Wing, corporate communications lead at Uber, both highlighted how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft) have filled in gaps created by public transportation. Forty percent of Uber's New York City rides are in the outer boroughs and never touch Manhattan, which serves as little surprise given only one subway line (the G) doesn't pass through Manhattan. TNCs, Wing explained, are also serving as critical links in the "last mile" problem of getting people to mass transit stations. (See AN's transportation feature on Miami for more on this.) Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, revealed that Ford aimed to have a production-ready Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. (Level 4 means no steering wheel, gas pedal, or anything else drivers must operate.) Given their cost, said Robinson, such cars will almost certainly be owned and operated by ride-sharing companies. Seeking to stay at the forefront of mobility solutions, Ford also bought Chariot, a TNC that operates 14-passenger ride-sharing vehicles and aims to reinvent mass transit. It was Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, who gave the most impassioned presentation. "Cities are in a one-time position of power," she said, to dictate the terms of how autonomous vehicles should operate before they're legally allowed in major cities. She's currently organizing a global coalition of mayor to negotiate with large companies. Her top priorities include: ensuring all vehicles are electric, creating a level playing field for competition among ride-sharing companies, and negotiating new forms of ride sharing taxation based on distance traveled, curb rights, fuel type, and other factors. Conventional taxation based on registration fees, gasoline tax, and tolls may not be an option when autonomous vehicles hit the road. Overall, the panel argued that anything less than all-electronic fleets of competing ride share companies would be a major loss for cities. In that scenario, there are fewer and much cleaner cars on the road, and vast amounts of parking and curbside space would be made available for public use.
For more on major transportations plans, don't miss the upcoming Plan 2050 at the Cooper Union, this May 9!
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Coming to the Cooper Union: How NYC could revolutionize its transportation network

New York–based ReThink Studio is on a mission to transform how the Big Apple's transportation system works, from the L Train shutdown to a new Penn Station and a vastly improved subway and regional train network. Urbanists, architects, and transportation aficionados (you know who you are) alike won't want to miss ReThink Studio Principal Jim Venturi in conversation with Sam Schwartz, president, CEO + founder of his eponymous engineering and planning firm, and Dr. Vukan R. Vuchic, professor emeritus of UPenn's Dept. of Electrical Systems and Engineering - Transportation. The discussion—free and open to the public—will focus on ReThink Studio's 2050 plan for New York City and will be held at The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, May 9, 6:30 to 8:30pm. Stay tuned for more details on speakers and programming, as well an opportunity to RSVP through Eventbrite. For more on ReThink Studio, see their website here.
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Penn Station proposals fail to recognize unique opportunity to improve regional transit

The redesign of Penn Station offers not just a chance to raise the building’s roof, but is also a unique opportunity to unify the region’s disparate rail networks in a way that has not been possible in over a century. Unfortunately, the recent proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Partnership for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) don’t think broadly enough about the underlying transportation problems afflicting the station and, worse yet, they solidify its already dysfunctional setup.

Most of Penn’s issues are founded in its overloaded capacity. When the station opened in 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad was one of eight railroads providing service into New York City. While other railroads terminated at waterfront stations, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the first railroad to cross the Hudson and East Rivers. Its Midtown Manhattan station provided through service for long-distance trains and terminal service for commuter rail from New Jersey and Long Island.

This is how the station still operates today, with one crucial difference: Over the past century, all the waterfront terminals except Hoboken have been closed, and the trains that served them have been largely rerouted into Penn. The resulting congestion has been exacerbated since the 1990s by a shift in preference toward Midtown’s office district and New Jersey Transit’s decision to reroute as many lines as possible into Penn.

Today, Penn Station serves 650,000 commuters each day. That is more than twice as many at its peak in the 1940s, and three times what its initial design accommodated. Furthermore, both New Jersey Transit and Metro-North would like to bring even more trains into Penn—both from existing and proposed routes. Expanded service into Penn Station will not be possible without significantly increasing its capacity—a need that Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals ignore in lieu of retail space and glass ceilings.

Understanding Penn’s capacity limitations (and how to solve them) is critical to a good design. They exist in three forms: passenger crowding, train traffic, and systematic connectivity issues to the rest of the region. On a passenger level, overcrowding is mitigated through staged boarding, or letting passengers onto the tracks only after trains arrive and unload. This produces chaotic lines and rushed transfers, especially in the area of the station that NJ Transit uses. Images of Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals suggest that the platform width and vertical access would both remain unchanged in the new Penn Station. Preserving existing stairs to the platform level, as PAU proposes, is not enough; Penn needs more vertical access. Rather than working to preserve inadequate stairwells to the platform level, we should be fighting for more stairs and escalators.

On a track level, the station is also hopelessly congested. Incoming trains often have to wait in tunnels for ten minutes or more as other trains exit the station. This is because the station is operated primarily as a terminal rather than a through station. Trains must cross each other as they enter and leave the station. Through-running avoids this problem by scheduling eastbound traffic on southern tracks and westbound traffic on northern tracks. Each train could enter the station, unload and load passengers, and continue on without ever crossing oncoming traffic.

Penn’s present configuration makes through-running impossible because only two tracks connect to Penn from New Jersey, while four tracks connect to the station from Queens. Amtrak’s current Gateway proposal would remedy this by building two additional tracks between Penn and New Jersey.

Unfortunately, none of the schemes put forward thus far recognize this unprecedented opportunity to expand the station’s capacity.

PAU’s analysis of Penn’s lack of connectivity at the neighborhood scale only tells half of the story. As a transit hub, the most important function of Penn Station is not on foot at street level, but underground at a track level. Furthermore, as one of the two regional rail hubs in New York, a redesign of Penn Station offers a uniquely valuable position to solve numerous problems at just as many scales. The schemes put forward thus far fail to look beyond the neighboring blocks of Midtown Manhattan.

Our ReThinkNYC proposal does. By understanding the regional importance of Penn Station, we are able to use infrastructural opportunities to not just solve present day problems within the station, but to improve connectivity on a regional scale.

We would reduce passenger crowding by extending all platforms to pass below neighboring Moynihan Station, currently the Farley Post Office. Some platforms already extend under Moynihan and other platforms should be extended as well. This would increase stair and escalator access to platforms for every carrier. We would widen the platforms, reducing the current 21 tracks to 12. This potentially counterintuitive move has significant benefits: Wider platforms allow passengers to board safely and quickly at track level, much like New York’s subway service, and this would decrease the amount of time each train would need to sit at its platform. By staging this work, it would be possible to extend and widen the platforms without interrupting service. We would use the new Gateway tunnels to implement through-running at Penn, allowing trains to enter and leave the station efficiently, without crossing each other’s paths. By permitting carriers to bring more trains through the station, Penn will be able to serve a growing New York City for years to come.

Not only will these track-level changes increase passenger and train capacity, but by bringing more trains through the station, we can dramatically improve the city’s connectivity as a whole. This includes NJ Transit trains that currently only go to Hoboken, LIRR lines that need more service but have no track space at Penn, and some Metro-North cars, that would be diverted from Grand Central. Furthermore, bringing Metro-North into Penn would have the added benefit of unifying the region’s three commuter rail lines into one station.

Redesigning Penn Station is about understanding its role within the New York region as a whole. The Gateway tunnels and Moynihan Station present a once-in-a-century opportunity to make Penn a transportation hub that both serves and stimulates the entire New York region. Proposals for vaulted ceilings and inspiring spaces would certainly make the station more beautiful, but are incomplete gestures if they fail to also address the more serious issues on a track and capacity level. In Penn Station, we have a rare opportunity to create a world-class station with the capacity and connectivity that New York needs. To give the city anything less would be a detriment not just to the station, but the region as a whole.

For more on ReThinkNYC, visit their website.

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Jim Venturi and ReThinkNYC want to revolutionize how NYC handles train infrastructure

Jim Venturi has a habit of being a rogue planner with his team at ReThinkNYC. Last year, he suggested using Riker's Island to expand La Guardia airport and now he is taking on New York and New Jersey's suburban rail network. His plan counters the current federal Gateway Project which proposes a high-speed rail link into Manhattan and the creation of a new terminus at Penn Station. Due to open in 2024, the plan aims to alleviate bottlenecking by adding 25 new train slots for use at peak times by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJT) along the North East Corridor (NEC) between Newark and New York City. Currently, those tracks are at full capacity. https://vimeo.com/161951825 If realized, the project would see the demolition of  Napoleon Le Brun's St. John the Baptist Church which dates back to 1871, a historic piece of French-Gothic architecture that is a well established part of Manhattan's urban fabric. Of greater importance for Venturi, however, lies with the continual use of Penn station as a terminus and not a through station. From an infrastructure perspective, capacity problems arise with terminuses: trains have to enter and leave, creating more traffic, while passengers often have to alight to catch their connections, which leads to overcrowding. This happens to the extent that trains often wait up to ten minutes before entering the station and passengers queue at platform escalators, something that train schedules have since incorporated as status quo. Penn Station is already the busiest station in the country. It's platforms, in comparison to other regional stations, are very narrow. Since the addition of escalators and the advent of other modern day needs, available space has further decreased. To counter this, ReThinkNYC has devised a system whereby tracks are surrounded on either side by platforms. In this scenario, people can alight on one side and embark on the other, thus potentially improving circulation with people no longer getting in each others way.   ReThinkNYC also proposes that Penn Station becomes a through-station. This is nothing new. Indeed, the station is already a through-station for Amtrak services though is not for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and NJT. Speaking to AN, Venturi spoke of how terminuses are all too commonplace in a region which currently holds three, run by four operators—MetroNorth, NJT, LIRR, and Amtrak. Efficiency and connectivity are the crux of ReThinkNYC's plan, with services being more accessible for passengers. "We need to think bigger," Venturi says. The current proposed plan, Venturi explained, is a "quick fix" bereft of longterm foresight and the result of of a system that is seldom fed any infrastructural ideas. He said this situation stems from a growing disparity between revenue and power centers between Washington D.C. and New York. "Our plan is very boring" he adds, going on to say that in "any other country, our idea is completely normal." And he's not wrong. Across Europe, through-stations in cities have become commonplace, with Berlin's Hauptbahnhof leading by example, running tracks through the station on three levels in different directions. "As far as I can tell we're the only city in the developed world that is building new terminals," as opposed to through-stations, he said. Paris and London are two notable beneficiaries of modern day through-service plans, and even closer to home, Philadelphia has done the same. If the Gateway project were to be a through-station, Venturi explained, Amtrak services could continue up to Queens and the Bronx. A "trunk" line where all four operators overlap running through Penn Station would be established between Secaucus Junction (NJ) and Sunnyside in Queens. At either side of these stations, services would then diverge; most on the Queens side would go to Port Morris in the Bronx where a new rail yard would be located. This would then prevent Amtrak from reaching capacity at the Sunnyside rail yard and allow NJT services to run through Penn Station. This system, which is very much like the Paris, London and Philadelphia examples above, would allow sidings (i.e. freight stored in a train yard) to sit on the periphery while allowing the "core" to be a place where passengers can transfer onto the subway system and other suburban rail services For this to happen, though, NJT would have to move their terminus eastward to Port Morris while LIRR would have to follow suit in the opposite direction to Secaucus. https://vimeo.com/163764271 While Venturi's scheme calls for the construction of three tunnels and a new viaduct (see video above) to essentially connect the Hudson and Harlem lines and the NEC, the plan also utilizes much unused infrastructure. Track beds that were never filled would be electrified and the Hell Gate bridge, which was originally built to hold four tracks would finally be used as such. For ReThinkNYC's plan to be realized, Venturi has broken it up into five phases as can be seen below. Electrification however, is another issue. Metro North and LIRR use two variations of the "3rd rail" electric connections to power their trains (one is a high contact platform, the other is low). To make things more complicated, 3 different catenary (overhead electrification) standards are used, so in the cases of lines that use overhead contact, 3 variations of voltage/Frequency output (Voltz/Hertz) are also used. This, of course, can all be changed, accommodating all these systems takes up valuable space in carriages and is generally seen as impractical. In comparison to Europe, two forms of electrification dominate the rail networks. Known as Electric multiple units (EMU's), trains make use of a 3rd rail/overhead hybrid contact system which has become commonplace, thus allowing freight and passenger rail services to cross borders without hassle. In the US, however, a lack of standardization appears to be halting progress in this respect. https://vimeo.com/161960566 Though a major overhaul, the practice of setting such standards in the UK was achieved after WWII when the railways were nationalized and the 25 kV 50 Hz overhead system was installed and the 3rd rail system developed in the South East with the exception of the Eurostar service. In light of all this, there is still room for improvement. Venturi explains how a connection between Trenton and New Haven could be easily realized. "It seems obvious," he says. "Just draw a straight line between Trenton and New Haven." In this case, similar types of rolling stock could be used due to the way these lines are electrified. Despite the ominous outlook of the East coast's rail network in comparison to the rest of the developed world, Venturi is adamant that a "rail revival" is happening, or at least underway.
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Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious plans to overhaul New York’s Penn Station

The lead-up to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address feels like a government-backed encore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Instead of lords a-leaping and swans a-swimming, Cuomo brings infrastructure upgrades a-plenty in his 2016 Agenda. The governor promised funds to the Gateway and East Side Access tunnels, the Javits Center, new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, the MTA (wi-fi a-comin'!), and an airport on Long Island. Arguably the biggest proposal is the Empire State Complex, a $3 billion redevelopment of New York City's Penn Station and its surroundings. The plan seeks to make Penn Station, which sits beneath Madison Square Garden, less of a hellhole—nice, even. Built to accommodate 200,000 daily riders, the station now serves 650,000 people per day. Channeling public sentiment, the governor ripped on Penn Station in his announcement. "Penn station is un-New York. It is dark, constrained, ugly, a lost opportunity, a bleak warren of corridors. [It's] a miserable experience and a terrible first impression." The governor's plan calls for enhancing connectivity between the station and the street; providing wi-fi; and reducing congestion by widening existing corridors, creating better wayfinding, and improving ticketing areas. As hinted at in previous proposals, the massive, neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office, at Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, could be converted into the "Moynihan Train Hall," a sun-drenched waiting area for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and MTA passengers. A pedestrian tunnel underneath Eighth Avenue will connect the train hall with the main station. With this 210,000-square-foot addition, the size of the station will increase by 50 percent. The governor reviewed possible redesign scenarios. In one, Madison Square Garden Theater would be demolished to make way for a block-long entrance to Penn Station, facing the post office. In another, a glassy entrance, with skylights, would be constructed on 33rd Street. The street would be closed and converted into a pedestrian plaza. A third, more minimal scenario would add entrances at street corners and mid-block. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) hosted a competition to rethink Penn Station. MAS highlighted designs four firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)—for an improved Penn Station. In addition to improved passenger flow, each proposal imagined the station as a civic hub and neighborhood anchor. The governor said that this would phase of the project would be completed first. The rest of the overhaul could be complete by 2019, an amazing feat in a city where infrastructure improvements can drag on for decades. The Empire State Development Corporation, the MTA, Amtrak and the LIRR will parter with private developers to spearhead the project. $2 billion will go towards the Empire State Complex, while $1 billion will go towards "retail development" on 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million is expected to come from state and federal governments. The rest of the project will be privately funded, in exchange of revenue generated by commercial and retail rents. Cuomo will be issuing invitations to private developers, with an April 2016 due date. Currently, Vornado Realty Trust manages land around Penn Station, though it's unclear whether this relationship will continue.
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Tunnel Time: Amtrak Tunnel Beneath Hudson Yards Sets Stage For Gateway Project

Construction on the two-track Gateway project, a new tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan, will commence this summer beneath Related Company’s Hudson Yards redevelopment site. Related Companies and Amtrak will build this 800-foot-long “box tunnel,” which will first serve as a shell for Amtrak’s rail connection linking the Hudson tunnel to Penn Station’s tracks, and, eventually, to the proposed Moynihan Station. The actual Amtrak Gateway Project is still years away, but construction on this first leg of the tunnel is happening now to coordinate with construction on Manhattan's West Side. The project will be funded by the federal government including some funding from the Hurricane Sandy relief package meant to help mitigate flooding during future storms. It's estimated to cost between $120 and $150 million.