Proposed tunnel would improve commute to Manhattan by 2014

Mon January 10, 2005 - National Edition

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) A one-train ride to Manhattan from north Jersey would make commuting easier for thousands of riders, but officials do not expect a new Hudson River train tunnel to become a reality for a decade.

The plan is expected to cost $6 billion, The Sunday Record of Bergen County reported. Funding would come from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The tunnel would cost $5 billion, while additional projects could cost $1 billion or more. The Port Authority already has funded a $10 million engineering study that will examine how to expand the platforms at Penn Station so they can handle longer trains.

The 100-year-old tunnel that transports commuters between New Jersey and New York is at capacity, with 186 trains making the trip to Manhattan from New Jersey each day during the morning rush hours. That figure is up from just 88 trains in 1994.

"The rate of growth has been significant over the past decade," NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington told the newspaper. "If you look at where demand is going, where jobs are going to be created, it’s clearly midtown Manhattan. It’s clear that the way to allow that growth to continue is through rail."

An estimated 250,000 New Jerseyans work in Manhattan and officials said that number is expected to grow by 200,000 over the next two decades.

NJ Transit estimates that the tunnel would create 16,000 jobs and $3 billion worth of personal income.

A draft environmental impact statement is to be finished this summer, and a final statement is due by mid-2006. Officials estimate that construction could begin later in 2006 and could be completed by 2014.

The proposed tunnel would begin just west of Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen and continue under Union City and Weehawken. Trains would continue beyond Penn Station to a new station at 34th Street, officials said.

"The fact that New Jersey is right across the river and has had a barrier all these years from Manhattan will be much less so," said Jeffrey Zupan, senior fellow with the Regional Plan Association. "The project ... has an opportunity to transform the state and particularly the relationship with New York, which will not be as distant."