The Princeton Branch (otherwise known as the “Dinky”) will soon become Dinkier. New Jersey Transit will begin to remove the tracks and the overhead wire that powers the trains on the portion of the line closest to downtown Princeton. This marks a defeat for the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), which had sought to prevent the removal of that section of the line. NJ-ARP had joined with others in filing a petition with the Surface Transportation Board and an appeal from NJT’s decision to consummate a land deal with Priceton University that would allow the removal of the affected portion of the line. A court hearing is set for October 13th, and the STB has not yet answered the petition. By the time these events occur, the planned removal of the portion of the line at issue will have been completed.
The Lackawanna Coalition has commended NJ-ARP for its strong advocacy on this issue, and is concerned that NJT has begun to remove infrastructure at issue before legal processes have been completed.
Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, an outspoken opponent of New Jersey Transit’s proposed deep-cavern terminal for the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project has pronounced the project dead, at least as NJT conceives it. In a column appearing in the edition for Sunday, October 3d, Mulshine said: “The ARC is dead. Long live the ARC.” He also said that Republicans were confident that Gov. Christie would kill it.
Mulshine quoted Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) as saying, “I think New Jersey should sit down with Amtrak and come up with a long-range plan to build tunnels and co-operate.” Mulshine concluded, “That should solve a lot of problems and save a lot of money. And unless the proponents of ARC have a few billion dollars hidden up their sleeves, they’d better start addressing those problems.”
In a separate article, Mulshine reprinted the statement made by Philip G. Craig, representing the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) at a hearing held by the Assembly Transportation Committee on September 20th. The articles and Craig’s statement were published on the paper”s web site, www.nj.com
Bob Ingle, writing in the Daily Record, Sunday, Sept. 26, says Governor Christie’s decision to put the trans-Hudson ARC rail tunnel on hold is a wise move. Ingle calls the plan “the rail line from Monstrosity by the Turnpike” (his term for the failed Xanadu complex) to Macy’s basement. It would be the “third Hudson tunnel”, after the “one we now use and a second Amtrak is planning”. At 180′ deep, the new terminal “is so deep that one escalator can’t handle it . . . how’d you like to be caught down there in an emergency?” Ingle goes on to lambaste Assembly Transportation, Public Works, and Independent Authority Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, who “went on blabbering about how awful it was that Gov. Christie called the 30-day halt . . .cost overruns could reach an estimated $2 billion to $5 billion . . . Who thinks it will be limited to just $5 billion?”
Ingle quotes NJ Association of Railroad Passengers’ Phillip Craig that the ARC project is “a compromised mediocre project that will not meet” the region’s train needs, and “is not affordable given the state’s . . . financial condition”. Ingle says Craig went on to state that the claim that reexamining the ARC project might jeopardize Federal funding is “no more than a transparent scare tactic designed to protect the status quo”. Craig recommends the project be “right-sized”, terminating the new line in Penn Station and reducing costs while preserving New Jersey jobs. Ingle concludes that there are five transportation projects on the New York side, and ARC is “the only one that doesn’t tie in with the other four . . . Christie should bring together representatives of all five projects” to get the best deal for taxpayers’ money. Ingle says the savings should allow us to “replenish the Transportation Trust Fund without a tax hike”.
An alliance of passenger rail advocates in the region has proposed and endorsed a plan to connect any proposed new rail tunnels and the tracks they contain to the existing Penn Station, rather than building the deep-cavern terminal proposed by New Jersey Transit. The plan, known as the “Penn Station First” plan, also calls for construction of new track to the Grand Central Terminal area on Manhattan’s East Side and for eventual through-running between New Jersey and Long Island or Westchester and Connecticut. According to the proposal, through-running would use train sets more efficiently than the current in-and-out operation, saving money and allowing more service. The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), the Empire State Passengers Association (ESPA,) and the Regional Rail Working Group (RRWG) have joined the Lackawanna Coalition in proposing the Penn Station First Plan.