The Gateway Tunnel and New Bus Terminal: More Money that New Jersey and the Port Authority Can Afford, and More Time Than They Have

We are told that we have a crisis. The two Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under the Hudson River are more than 100 years old, are deteriorating, were damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and could need to be shut down for repair at any time. Cutting off the approximately 46,000 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak riders who use the tunnels to get to Manhattan between 7 am and 10 am on a typical weekday. The solution: a Gateway Tunnel plan that would take 20 years and $20 billion. We are told that we have a crisis – the Port Authority Bus Terminal is aging, deteriorating, unable to cope with rising traffic, and liable to become unusable due to the deterioration of its concrete decking. The solution: the construction of an interim terminal, and then a new terminal, for more than $10 billion, taking at least 10 years and perhaps 15.

This is what happens when you plan for every interest group to be paid off, years of hearings where every NIMBY activist has their say, years of planning in which every conflict is settled by the addition of more money, and a construction process in which metro New York’s rapacious consultants, contractors and construction unions are allowed to turn essential projects into perpetual gravy trains. That is what happened at the World Trade Center site, with its massively expensive and much delayed PATH station, at the Fulton Street Transit Center site, and at East Side Access. Extra years, extra billions, extra campaign contributions for incumbent politicians, but no extra benefits for the serfs who will have to pay the interest on the associated debts for the rest of their lives, long after the beneficiaries depart for Florida or the grave. If this were a real emergency the politicians would find a way to make all these vetoes, sinecures, and extravagances go away. What would they do then? Here is a summary of what people who follow these issues are saying.

Before we get into the specific proposals for mass transit travel between New York and New Jersey, let’s consider the concept of $1 billion dollars. Because I get the feeling that whereas a minimum wage of $15 per hour seems like an inconceivable amount of money for those in power, nobody can really grasp just how much $1 billion is, and the figure has become taken for granted.

According to Employment and Wages data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is based on unemployment insurance tax records…

http://www.bls.gov/cew/

the average person working in the Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction industry in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area earned $98,448 in cash pay in 2014. That’s pretty good money considering that the average for all private sector workers in metro New York – including Wall Street! – was $72,377. Moreover, adjusted for inflation the average annual cash pay in the Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction industry increased 16.1% in the decade from 2004 to 2014, whereas the average for all private sector workers increased just 2.8%.

Now add on more than 50 percent of that cash pay for non-wage benefits and profit, for a total cost of $150,000 per year per worker. For every $1 billion in infrastructure project cost, whether for those working at the work site or those somewhere else producing the materials and equipment, that equals 6,667 person years. If everyone being paid were actually working (or retired at a reasonable age and cost), that would mean 667 people working in each of two shifts for five years. Are there any cases where there are 667 people working on one of these jobs per $billion? Where are they? Where is all the money going?

The New Hudson River Tunnel: Just Do It Right Now

The deterioration of the two Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels is the alleged crisis, but the Gateway Project consists of many, many other components that have nothing to do with the Hudson River. Moreover the new Gateway Tunnel, as proposed, would be two tracks, whereas to avoid the crisis only one is required. My former boss’s boss at City Planning points out the obvious.

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/sandy-hornick-n-commuter-nightmare-article-1.2303546

Amtrak has correctly been focused on its Gateway project to add two new cross-Hudson tunnels and expand Penn Station to handle more trains, but this a $20 billion project that cannot be completed before the 2030s. Even just building two tunnels, Amtrak’s short-term goal, has a 10-year timeline and costs that appear unfundable. We can’t wait more than a decade for such a solution to finally come to fruition.

There is an alternative. Treat this as the emergency it will soon be. Build a project that can be more easily financed: a one-track tunnel to provide capacity while each of the existing tunnels is taken out of service and repaired.”

Even at one track, a tunnel under the Hudson could take a long time and be very dangerous to build, because tunneling through silt in a riverbed requires pressurized air to keep the water out, and that means workers would spend most of their shifts acclimating and de-acclimating to pressurized air to avoid the bends. While being vulnerable to blow-outs and cave-ins while working.

The solution to the cost and danger of such tunneling is not to do it. Instead, follow the construction method used for the 63rd Street tunnel between Manhattan and Queens. Build the tunnel in segments somewhere else – somewhere far away from the overpriced contractors of metro New York. Our local contractors should not be allowed to build any more infrastructure until they finish East Side Access, a project that began with the construction of the 63rd Street tunnel 45 years ago. Some other contractor from some other place would dig a trench in the river, sink the tunnel segments in the trench, connect them, fill in the trench again, pump the water out of the completed tunnel, and cut through the river bulkheads from the dry land side. Here is a video of 63rd Street tunnel construction, back in 1971, showing how it was done.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwUN5TryAm0

That tunnel required four 375-foot long sections, each 40-foot square, for four tracks. The mile-wide Hudson might require 14 such sections, 20 feet wide and 25 or more feet high for one track – because the 63rd Street tunnel is not tall enough for two-level commuter railcars. Or perhaps 60 feet wide and 25 or more feet tall, for three tracks, for reasons I’ll explain later.   A conga line of tunnel sections could be floated up to New York Harbor, with the river bottom dredged, the sections sunk, and the tunnel buried in turn, moving across the Hudson River. If planned right and expedited in all phases, the project could be done in a summer.

A tunnel across the Hudson would be longer than the 63rd Street tunnel, but it would still be easier to build, because the land-side work would not require the deep shafts that were cut for the 63rd Street tunnel. Land-side access would be on the western side of Bergen Hill in New Jersey, near the portals for the two existing tunnels, and in the yards west of Penn Station. Back in 1971, moreover, the land-side sections of the tunnels were cut via the slow drill-and-blast method, whereas today we have tunnel boring machines.

And the time to do this project is right now, by which I mean actually building the tunnel next summer. What is the largest source of demand for large-scale underwater construction, and large-scale steel and concrete off-shore structures? The oil and gas industry – offshore oil platforms. Given the depths at which offshore oil platforms are anchored, the wave action they have to face, and the harsh environments – including the Arctic – where they are often located, for the organizations and people who build such structures a Hudson River tunnel would be a piece of cake. And because of the plunge in oil and gas prices, lots of them are ending up unemployed. For example, a major project in arctic Alaska was just cancelled.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/business/international/royal-dutch-shell-alaska-oil-exploration-halt.html?_r=0

“The industry has cut its investments by 20 percent this year and laid off at least 200,000 workers worldwide, roughly 5 percent of the total work force. Companies also have retreated from less profitable fields in places like the North Sea, West Africa, and some shale prospects in Louisiana and North Dakota.

The decision by Shell to abandon its Arctic drilling program for now primarily reflects the realities of lower global oil prices,” said Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, who advises oil companies and investment banks. “When prices go down, the oil industry shortens their list of projects in development by removing the most expensive ones.”

A terrible waste of production capacity and expertise, one that should be put to good use outside the oil industry before it dissipates. It isn’t just those who build and install such structures that are cheaper and available due to commodity price collapse, moreover, probably the materials as well. T

The federal government could ask the builders of offshore oil platforms to bid on building and installing the required Hudson River tunnel segments by next summer. And as for the soil dredging and replacement part of the project, the government may not have to go as far as Alaska to recruit workers and engineers, because the underwater phase of the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge was recently completed, and those workers might end up idled too.

http://www.newnybridge.com/about/index.html

What about planning? That went on for 20 years and many consulting contracts at the Tappan Zee Bridge, until President Obama and Governor Cuomo decided to just build it, with a design-build contract that turned out to be half the cost and half the time of the inflated estimates. And study of a new the Hudson River tunnel has already gone on for two decades.

What about engineering? How about copying the specifications from the 63rd Street tunnel (but with 25-foot tunnel heights) for the bid documents, and putting a design-bid contract out “this or better”?

What about the environmental impact statement? The corruption of the environmental review process into a consultant bonanza, construction cost inflator, and extortion racket that has nothing to do with the environment is one of the worst disasters in the history of City Planning. So whenever something actually has to get done, such as the fourth lane of the LIE or the construction of new schools by the New York City School Construction Authority, it is exempted from that diseased process by legislation. If this were a real emergency the new Gateway Tunnel would be exempted as well.

You want an environmental review? Here it is. There is toxic waste in the sediment of the Hudson River bottom, and if the river were to be dredged to sink a new tunnel, that toxic sediment would have to be taken care of. As it happens the organizations and workers experienced in doing this work are available, and becoming unemployed, because General Electric has completed its dredging of the Upper Hudson to remove PCBs.

http://www.hudsondredging.com/2015/10/05/ge-completes-hudson-river-dredging/

The federal government could get the tunnels under Bergen Hill in New Jersey, which would connect to the river tunnel, dug by coal mining companies and miners, who are also becoming idled due to plunging energy prices, rather than by the politically privileged contractors and unions of New York and New Jersey. And the federal government could pay for the tunnel as its contribution to the overall project.

The Navy could inspect the tunnels, and supervise their floating to their location. The Army Corp. of Engineers could supervise the dredging, re-burying of the tunnel under the Hudson, and the land-side tunneling through the river bulkheads in New York and New Jersey. Amtrak could have its own staff install the track, ballast, and signaling. And a power company could provide the power in exchange for being allowed to run a new power supply connection to Manhattan for use by others. New York and New Jersey don’t even have to be involved.

Everything is in place to build this tunnel, right now. Get rid of all procedural BS, tell New York’s construction unions, contractors, consultants, lawyers, and denizens of the Bada Bing that they are out of the picture, and the time and cost plunges.

New Penn Station South – Don’t Build It

The new Hudson River tunnel may be the crisis, but it may not be the most expensive part of the Gateway project. Rather than connect the new tunnel into the existing Penn Station, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit want to buy up and tear down a large chunk of expansive Manhattan south of the station, dig a huge new underground cavern, and build in effect a new, additional station with seven tracks and four platforms. Adding to the 21 tracks and 11 platforms Penn Station already has.

http://jasongibbs.com/pennstation/#platforms

The goal is to increase the number of trains, and thus the number of New Jersey commuters, that could travel directly to Manhattan via train, allowing more middle class workers and companies to leave New York City for the suburbs – repeating the effect of highway construction after World War II. There are, however, far less expensive ways to do this within the confines of the existing tracks and platforms.

There are four tunnels to Penn Station under the East River and, if a one-track Hudson River Tunnel were added and the two existing tunnels repaired, there would also be three tracks under the Hudson.

At the absolute morning peak hour the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak run 37 trains to Penn Station under the East River (and 10 outbound), but a more typical level of weekday traffic is just 12. And that will fall once East Side Access opens, and many Long Island Railroad trains start going to Grand Central instead. On the other side, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak run 26 AM peak trains to Penn Station under the Hudson (and 14 outbound), but a more typical level of traffic is just 11.

http://www.nymtc.org/files/hub_bound/DM_TDS_Hub_Bound_Travel_2013.pdf

Most of the commuter trains, therefore, don’t go back and forth during the day. They are two-trip trains, inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. The two-trip Long Island railroad trains travel under the East River in the morning, stop at Penn Station, and (after a long pause) head to the West Side Yard in Manhattan. The two-trip New Jersey Transit trains travel under the Hudson River in the morning, stop at Penn Station, and (after a long pause) travel under the East River to the Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

So imagine that one track under the Hudson River and one track under the East River were reserved for New Jersey Transit two-trip trains, inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. And one track under the East River was reserved for one-trip Long Island Railroad trains, inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon, since those trains don’t have to continue under the Hudson to New Jersey to reach their yard. That would leave two tracks under each river for trains running through Penn Station and out the other side.

How many tracks and platforms would additional service require? Consider this. With one track in each direction and one platform, the 53rd Street (E, M) and Joralemon Street (4, 5) tunnels each accommodate 24 inbound trains in the AM peak hour, and the 53rd Street tunnel once accommodated up to 30. Yes it takes more time to get a two-level commuter train, with most passengers seated and everyone getting off at the same place, through a station than it does a subway train. And that limits the capacity of any given track and platform. But how much more time?

Imagine New Jersey Transit’s one-trip trains were assigned to three platforms and six tracks. Imagine that New Jersey Transit wanted to send in 30 one-trip trains through Penn Station during the peak hour instead of perhaps 12. That would be one train every five minutes for each platform, and one train every ten minutes for each track. That’s a lot of time. Time it out for yourself. The Long Island railroad, for its part, is assigned more platforms and more tracks.

Suppose the constraint on capacity isn’t how fast people get on and off the trains, but rather the number of people who can move around the large pillars supporting Madison Square Garden above, and the limited number of stairways up to the next level? That might be a legitimate concern, though not everyone agrees.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2013/07/amtrak-boarding

Even assuming it is, however, it would almost certainly be cheaper to give the Dolans back the $1 billion they invested in rehabbing Madison Square Garden and tell them to build a new one across the street at the Farley Post Office, as some have suggested, than to build a southern extension of Penn Station with all the property acquisition, demolition and deep cavern blasting costs involved. (And a new MSG shouldn’t cost more than the $1.6 billion it cost to build Metlife Stadium, and not much more than the $1 billion it cost to build Barclay’s Center).

With no large structure above, Penn Station’s the platform pillars could be narrower and full-length mezzanines – similar to those provided at IND subway stations, could be built over each platform, with many stairways down to each of them. It would even be possible to install control turnstiles at the mezzanine level, to limit access only to ticketed railroad passengers and employees, as on the subway.

Even in that case, to avoid repeating the World Trade Center PATH station financial disaster, someone would have to tell the Municipal Art Society to shove off. No starchitects, no Calatrava. No multi-billion dollars for form and not function.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/santiago-calatrava-world-trade-center-path-hub.html

Above the mezzanines, in fact, there wouldn’t really even have to be a station. Just an open-air plaza covered by a roof, with a security wall to limit points of access (particularly for vehicles) and the wind. After all, train stations are not the sorts of places where most people hang around, and most of them are going to be buying tickets with their phones, or from ticket sellers with wireless devices, in the future anyway. Those who wanted a climate controlled waiting room and old-fashioned ticket office could be directed across the street to the Farley Post office building, where one could be built. That was another project people wanted, right?

Having nearly the entire area from 7th Avenue to 8th Avenue and 31st Street to 33rd Street occupied by an open, roofed structure no more than 50 feet high would greatly diminish the perceived density of the area. Perhaps the blocks around could be up-zoned in response, including the blocks the Gateway Project as now planned would tear down, and the resulting tax revenues used for the new, low-cost station headhouse.

To increase the capacity of existing tracks and platforms further, commuter service could be organized so that commuter trains that are not two-trip trains would run through Penn Station, rather than terminating there or turning around. For example, rather than having a New Jersey Transit train run from Highbridge on the Raritan Valley line, terminate at Penn Station, pause, and then turn around and run back to Highbridge, and a Long Island Railroad train run from Long Beach on the Long Beach line, terminate at Penn Station, pause, and turn back again, a single line could run from Highbridge to Long Beach stopping only briefly at Penn Station.

That would require service that is currently provided by New Jersey Transit, MetroNorth or the Long Island Railroad to be provided by a different organization. That isn’t impossible. New York’s MetroNorth is paid by the State of Connecticut to provide commuter rail service in Connecticut. New Jersey Transit is paid by the MTA to provide commuter rail service west of the Hudson River in New York. Perhaps the states should set up a new railroad – the Non-Ripoff railroad – to provide service on some lines now provided by one of the existing agencies. The big benefit of that would be taking work away from the Long Island Railroad, the biggest ripoff of them all.

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=85068

The Portal Bridge – Stop Opening It

Along with a new section of Penn Station, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit want to tear down the Portal Bridge, an old two-track swing bridge over the Hackensack River, and replace it with two bridges with two tracks each. At a cost of $2 billion. Because continuing failures when the Portal Bridge opens and closes for river traffic cause massive delays for the trains.

The reality, however, is there is nothing wrong with the bridge. If it were painted and welded shut, it would probably be stronger and more durable than anything that would be built now to replace it. The only problem with the bridge is the mechanism for opening and closing it. But why does it have to be opened and closed at all? What is the river traffic that must be accommodated?

A large barge that moves sewage sludge from Bergen County’s sewage treatment plant to a facility south of the bridge once per week, and the tugboat that moves the barge.

http://www.northjersey.com/news/when-bergen-county-sludge-meets-rusty-amtrak-bridge-both-sides-lose-1.1275791?page=all

The measurement that matters, of course, is height. The pilothouse of the Turecamo Girls (the tub boat) sits five stories above the water. That’s too tall to fit under the Portal Bridge, which is 26 feet above the river’s high water mark, said Craig Schulz, a spokesman for Amtrak, which owns and maintains the bridge.

So every time the sludge barge comes, the bridge must swing open. The Portal Bridge opened 90 times during the past four months of 2014, according to Amtrak. Of those movements, 75 were for the shipments of sludge.

The Gateway plan is two bridges, one to replace the existing two-track bridge, one to double its capacity. Why would these cost $1 billion each? After all, it only cost the City of New York about $100 million to replace the 145th Street bridge, a swing bridge over the Harlem River. And that river is about as wide as the Hackensack River near the Portal Bridge.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/harlemrvbdrpt.pdf

Driving up the price is a Coast Guard requirement that any new bridge be 53 feet above the water, high enough to allow commercial ships to pass underneath.

The people of Metropolitan New York have paid enough for obsolete Coast Guard requirements. When is the last time a tall-masted sailing ship passed under the Kosciuszko Bridge into Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn-Queens border? Or under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Culver (F Train) viaduct into the Gowanus Canal?

This is nothing but another ripoff. Someone – perhaps President Obama – needs to tell the Coast Guard to ditch this requirement. Someone – perhaps the New Jersey state legislature – should tell Bergen County that it’s time to replace the barge and tugboat with something smaller, perhaps two barges that would pass under the closed bridge twice per week. New Jersey Governor Christie wants New York to pay half of what is, in effect, money wasted on a bunch of crap.

The Bus Terminal: Build It In New Jersey

When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released its timeline and cost estimate for a new bus terminal in Manhattan, the numbers were so stunning that it was widely suspected that the agency was hoping to make the whole idea go away. Why should a bus station cost so much money?

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/03/8564079/plans-new-bus-terminal-confront-steep-cost-estimates

Port Authority officials say one of the reasons the full-replacement option on the existing site is so expensive is because of its ambition: namely to fully accommodate the rapid increase in ridership anticipated in the coming decades (an expectation based both on population projections and bus ridership growth that has, in recent decades, already rendered the Eighth Avenue terminal over capacity).

To meet the demands of ever-rising bus ridership, Port Authority officials are talking about building a five-level terminal that, with ramps, staging and parking, would cover 3.5 full city blocks. The existing three-level facility covers slightly more than 2 blocks.

But first, the Port Authority would have to build a temporary terminal to the west of the current station, then move all bus operations to that facility to allow for the demolition and replacement of the existing terminal.

As at Penn Station, it seems, New Jersey wants to buy and tear down, at enormous expense, a huge chunk of Manhattan. And demands that New York cover a huge share of the cost. Instead of choosing another, less costly alternative. One such alternative is already out there.

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150512/REAL_ESTATE/150519962/port-authority-official-mulls-giving-up-on-manhattan-to-build-a-bus-terminal-in-new-jersey

Scott Rechler, the vice chairman of the Port Authority’s board of commissioners, said a terminal could be constructed at a fraction of that cost in New Jersey. The new station would tie into existing rail lines or potentially a new Hudson River Tunnel, which has been proposed as part of an extension of the 7 subway from the far West Side to Secaucus and Amtrak’s Gateway Project.

Let’s get back to that 60-foot wide, three-track tunnel that I suggested could be built in segments elsewhere and sunk into the Hudson River. One track would connect into the existing Penn Station and be used by New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. The other two could be used to extend the Flushing Line (#7) subway to New Jersey’s Secaucus Transfer Station, where the new bus terminal could be built as well.

New Jersey commuters not heading to the Penn Station area, or Lower Manhattan via the PATH train, could then transfer from New Jersey trains or buses to the subway for a quick ride to Times Square, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, Grand Central, Long Island City Queens. With one quick transfer to another subway they could get anyplace else in Midtown.

This is not a new idea. It was suggested by New York City Planning back in the early 1990s, in the early phases of planning for the Access to the Region’s Core project. That was during the crack epidemic, and suburban officials insisted that suburban commuters were too good for the New York City subway and the people who ride it. Those commuters wouldn’t want to use the same serf-class transportation that city residents used. Twenty years later, of course, the image of New York City and the New York City subway are somewhat different, particularly among those under age 40, an ever-rising share of the workforce. And so is the image of New Jersey.

Buses through the Lincoln Tunnel, mostly but not exclusively heading to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, carried 36,000 period during the peak AM hour and 87,000 during the three hours from 7 am to 10 am. That ridership is going up. The Steinway Tunnels from Queens, which carry the Flushing Line to Manhattan, had 26 inbound trains during the peak AM hour, with 20,600 passengers, and 46,800 passengers from 7am to 10 am.

But the subway could carry far more people than that. The purported capacity of the newer IRT subway cars averages about 180 people each, and the Flushing Line trains include 11 cars. That means each train could carry 2,000 people. And the subway, with CBTC signaling, has a track capacity of 40 trains per hour. That means as an absolute peak a Flushing extension could move 80,000 people per hour into Midtown Manhattan.

If one assumes that people will want more elbow room and expects an average of 1,500 passengers per train, and only 30 trains per hour, that’s still more than 45,000 passengers at the peak hour and 135,000 over three hours. An extended Flushing Line could, by itself, move as many people over three hours as all the buses through the Lincoln Tunnel and trains into Penn Station today.

But would a bus-to-subway commute be inferior service, compared with a direct bus ride to Times Square? Perhaps at 3 am on Sunday night. But during rush hours, traffic delays can extend bus commute times for a half hour or more because of congestion on Route 3. There is a dedicated bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, but only during the AM rush hour, not in the evening. There are delays at the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal. But the biggest delays are on Route 3 between the New Jersey Turnpike and the tunnel entrance, and that problem would not be solved by a new bus terminal in Manhattan, however large and expensive.

And how about the extra fare for the subway? Right now the New Jersey commuters who cannot walk to their destination from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (or Penn Station) are already paying for the subway. But even for those currently walking, New Jersey Transit might have reason to offer a discount for trips to Secaucus instead of Manhattan, offsetting the subway fare.

Without enough space in Manhattan to store them between trips, NJT buses must follow a long, heavy traffic morning trip to the bus terminal with a deadhead, empty ride back to New Jersey. Followed by a deadhead, empty ride back to Manhattan to pick up passengers in the afternoon. The traffic delays and congestion mean that like the two-trip commuter railroad trains, most express buses are two-trip per day buses – one inbound and one outbound, but with two deadhead moves in between.   That is extremely wasteful and expensive. With a new Bus Terminal located off the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus, however, many New Jersey Transit express buses could make two round trips per peak period, cutting the cost of providing the transportation nearly in half. And fares could reflect that.

With all those buses and trains congregating at a central North Jersey point, moreover, it would become possible for more people to use mass transit to travel within New Jersey. Commuting, say, from a bus stop in Wayne to an office near the train station at MetroPark. More and more people want that lifestyle, being able to live with one fewer car or, if they are young, no car at all, and not having to drive to work regardless of the weather. That’s why homes near rail transit stops are worth more and more relative to those farther away.

On the other side of the trip, however, businesses seeking workers who want that lifestyle generally have to locate in Manhattan, the center of the region’s mass transit network. This shift in lifestyle has turned sprawling, 1960 and 1970s-built office campuses throughout the New Jersey suburbs into abandoned white elephants, gutting the suburban tax base. With inter-Jersey mass transit improved, companies might choose locations near existing rail and bus stops within New Jersey for their locations. New office buildings could be built there, restoring that tax base.

So how much would a new Port Authority Bus Terminal cost in New Jersey? More to the point, if it were in New Jersey, why would the Port Authority have to have anything to do with it? Why couldn’t it be a New Jersey bus terminal? Why couldn’t the New Jersey Turnpike Authority build and operate it? The recently completed, massive Metlife Stadium, built a few miles away from Secaucus Transfer, cost $1.6 billion. Given that a bus terminal is a glorified heavy-duty parking garage plus a waiting area and ticket hall, and new bus terminal would be a fraction of the size of Metlife stadium, I can conceive of no non-corruption reason why it shouldn’t cost one-third as much, or less.

And what would the subway to Secaucus cost? The New York area construction industry wants $10 billion, plus delays, overruns, change orders, etc. Sure, why not? If you are planning on cashing in and moving out, it isn’t your money anyway?

Assume the federal government has already built the tunnel, and used the rock cut of out Bergen Hill to build an embankment for additional tracks to Secaucus. The MTA would need to build a subway from the tunnel portal to Secaucus Transfer with two interlockings — one at the mouth of the tunnel, one to a new yard that would hold the extra trains New Jersey would need in the AM rush, and one station.

As it happens, the Flushing Line extension the MTA just completed is the same distance, and also included two interlockings and one station. But that project included tunneling deep under Manhattan, around all the existing utilities, and a station deep in a cavern with elevators and escalators to move the passengers to the surface. Rather than a rail line on an embankment and an elevated station. And it only cost $2.4 billion. Surely extending the Flushing Line to Secaucus should cost less. Does anybody remember what happened on the number #1 subway in Lower Manhattan after 9/11 destroyed it? All the BS was discarded and the MTA and its contractors rebuilt it from Chambers to South Ferry in less than one year. That was about the same distance as well.

With a new bus terminal open in New Jersey, connected by the subway, the Port Authority could start charging a surcharge that was the equivalent of a subway far to everyone who took a bus to or from the existing Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. With that financial incentive relative to the alternative, the agency would likely find that it didn’t’ need a larger terminal after all. What it actually needed was a much smaller terminal, perhaps one for inter-city passengers only, since the surcharge would be a much smaller part of their overall fare, only.

Even some inter-city bus riders might decide they were better off avoiding the surcharge by using the underused George Washington Bridge bus terminal uptown. It would take 20 minutes more on the subway to get there from most of the city, compared with the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal.   But it would take 12 minutes less on the road for those going north on the New York State Thruway, and that’s without traffic. The odds of getting stuck in traffic on the bridge are much lower than the odds of getting stuck getting to the Lincoln Tunnel.

The Emergency is Generation Greed Wants Another Big Score

That’s what this is about. Everyone is seeking to cash in and bleed this metro area dry before moving on. Everyone but the suckers who are moving here. The parasitical nature of everyone swirling around every aspect of our infrastructure is not a fact of nature. If it was, our current infrastructure would not exist, because the people of New York and New Jersey wouldn’t have been able to afford to build it. It is just another aspect of the rot of all our institutions as a result of their capture by the self-dealers of Generation Greed.

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