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Tunneling to Apple's Core: Agencies Hone Ideas, Lack Budget

The Port Authority is in fact looking at some of New York City's fundamental transportation problems. With NJ Transit and the MTA, the PA has launched Access to the Region's Core, a $5 million study to assess numerous options to improve passenger and freight access between midtown Manhattan, the West Shore of the Hudson, Queens, and the suburban counties beyond. Many of the options to be considered in the study would, if completed, represent a public works undertaking on the order of the England-France Chunnel, but no source of funding exists for such a project. Indeed, both New York transit and highway capital programs are in difficult straits, and the Port Authority is backing away from its large-scale NYC airport access program because of construction cost issues.

The two and a half year initiative, known as Access to the Region's Core (ARC) began as a long list of improvements to public transit and freight facilities suggested by transportation officials, consultants, advisory committees and the public. Although ARC staff stressed the project is still in its first stages, ARC attracted early criticism for its focus on heavy duty "build" alternatives rather than less capital-intensive strategies, like ferry service expansion and roadway pricing -- the original list had 137 capital and 11 demand management strategies. ARC's lack of attention to lower Manhattan commuter access and to heavy truck usage of I-278 and the Goethals Bridge crossing has also provoked objections about the study's scope. As of now, 15 "build" alternatives have been selected for further evaluation. Rejected so far are proposals for a New Jersey-Queens motorway, including new river bridges, a Meadowlands-Queens rail tunnel with flatcars carrying autos, buses and trucks, and a proposal to run light rail cars through the Lincoln Tunnel. Alternatives still being considered include plans for commuter rail connections through new NJ Palisades, Hudson and East River tunnels, linking the Secaucus Transfer Station to Sunnyside Yard in Queens, and for direct rail freight connections from New Jersey to Long Island and New England. Another proposes extending the Number 7 Flushing subway line through a new Hudson River tunnel to Secaucus or to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford. One surviving idea that deserved an earlier death is an underground Queens-NJ motorway. Analysis of these alternatives will be conducted through December, when ARC hopes to identify six "build" options and one demand management strategy (the outline of which is yet to be defined) for further scrutiny. Phase II of the project will select one alternative from the proposals which the agencies decide will best meet the metropolitan area's access needs. Finding monies for such a large scale project, however, is "uncharted territory," according to the Port Authority's Martin Robbins, ARC's director. Public meetings about the six preliminary projects are tentatively scheduled for December. For more information call ARC Outreach Coordinator Iris Berman. 212-435-4411.

An excerpt from:
Mobilizing the Region
A Weekly Bulletin from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Electronic Edition Number 42
25 August 1995


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