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Improving Regional Mobility:
Long-Range Investment Strategies For the Port Authority's Interstate
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, September, 1994
Comments by Daniel Convissor
17 October 1994
An excerpt was printed in the November/December 1994 edition of the
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) recently
completed a new report: "Improving Regional Mobility", comparing
four projects to bolster bi-state transportation. The analysis does an
excellent job determining the economic and traffic flow consequences
of these alternatives. Unfortunately, dare I say, the PA picked the
project they want to justify and then compared it to only inferior
As a result, this study glorifies twinning the Goethals Bridge and
widening the Staten Island Expressway. This combination got the
highest economic and traffic flow rankings because it's the only one
providing significant new capacity for passengers and cargo between
New Jersey and Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens). The
Cross Bronx Expressway option contains minor capacity
enhancements. The new rail line they studied would be a subway-
like system from the Meadowlands to eastern Manhattan, so it would
NOT: be a new segment of the commuter rail system, go to Long
Island or serve freight.
An impressive job was done assembling the data and models.
Though the transit and highway models are separate, they are
linked. A transit project was modeled to determine how many auto
drivers would be lured out of their cars and then the highway model
determines the traffic flow consequences. The PA rightly assumes
Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is good indicator of regional air
quality. They do make an odd projection though, saying vehicular
emissions will be reduced if the Goethals/SIE projects are done.
Sadly, that projection will prove to be false. As with all capacity
expansion projects, VMT will jump due to the project, hence,
pollution will increase.
Heaps of delusional prose and environmental window dressing is no
surprise in this context. For instance, the study says it "avoids
main-line capacity expansion," calling the Goethals/SIE work a
"vehicular network investment" that will "support expansion of
'commuting alternatives'." The PA waxes on about preserving open
space and meeting the joined mandates of the Clean Air Act (CAA)
and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).
These statements show how hollow the CAA and ISTEA really are.
The PA, along with transportation providers around the nation, pay
lip service to alternative transport, give it a little more funding,
then continue the highway business as usual.
Here's the alternatives the study examined:
- Goethals Bridge expansion
- Twinning the Goethals, making the existing bridge
three lanes, plus shoulder, in the westbound direction
while the new facility does the same for eastbound
- Trans-Hudson Core Access Commuter Rapid Transit
- New rapid rail line from the Meadowlands Sports
Complex to Grand Central Terminal, traveling under
49 St in Manhattan. NY stations would be at
Rockefeller Plaza (5-6 Av), Times Square (Broadway-8
Av) and Eleventh Avenue. The studied version does
not connect to the 63 St Tunnel to Queens, though
provisions for that are possible.
- Improvements to the Cross Bronx Expressway
- Construction of an auxiliary/shoulder lane along the
westbound CBE from Sheridan Expressway to Prospect
Av, ramp improvements at Third Av and the Sheridan
Expressway. Those were included in the highway
model. Lighting improvements and incident detection
systems would be also be installed.
- Goethals Bridge expansion and Staten Island Expressway widening
- The SIE expansion would add a fourth lane in each
- Goethals and SIE expansions and Trans-Hudson Core Access
Commuter Rapid Transit
The PA needs to compare the projects above with additional trans-
Hudson alternatives that serve NJ LI trips. Below are some
possibilities. While all of these are more expensive than the
Goethals and SIE projects, some are likely to generate larger
economic and environmental benefits:
- Light Rail from NJ Transit's Main Line station in Patterson to the
East New York Station of both the Long Island Rail Road and
the Transit Authority; via I-80, the George Washington
Bridge, through the Bronx, and over the Hell Gate Bridge.
- Light rail from NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line station in
Cranford to East New York; via the Staten Island Rapid
Transit line (on SI's North Shore), across the Verrazano
Bridge and upon the Bay Ridge Freight Line.
- Rapid rail passenger & heavy rail freight reactivation from
Cranford, through a new tunnel from Saint George, SI to Bay
Ridge, Brooklyn. The rapid transit line would then hook into
the 4 Av express subway tracks to the LIRR's Flatbush Av
Terminal and Manhattan.
- Rail freight tunnel from Jersey City, NJ to Bay Ridge
- Heavy commuter rail from Secaucus, NJ to Sunnyside, Queens, via
a new tunnel under the Hudson River and 49 St, utilizing the
existing 63 St Tunnel to Queens.
- Heavy rail from Secaucus to Sunnyside, via previous route but
using a new East River tunnel, instead of the 63 St Tunnel, to
serve both commuter and freight trains.
- Heavy rail from Secaucus to Sunnyside, serving both commuter
and freight, plus modifications of Harold Interlocking and
adding two tracks from Win Junction to White Pot Junction
along the Long Island Railroad main line. The two additional
tracks will make the main line six tracks from Harold to the
It seems the PA is afraid to put the Goethals Bridge expansion up
against these alternatives, fearing it will not come out on top. Only
by comparing alternatives that have similar goals can the best
project(s) be truly determined.
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