Amtrak is proposing its Gateway Tunnel Project bringing direct service to New York City from Bergen and Passaic counties. Former Deputy Executive Director of NJ Transit and Founding Director of the Voorhees Transportation Center Martin Robins spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the proposal.
Robins said when Amtrak first put together the Gateway Tunnel Project, it cost $13 billion and did not include the Bergen loop, which would allow for direct service to New York City. Robins said the transportation company likely didn’t include the Bergen loop because it cost about $500,000 and benefited the specific northern New Jersey area.
“Amtrak has to make the plan appealing to New Jersey if they’re going to get New Jersey’s money to help to underwrite the projects,” Robins said. “And the Bergen loops could be a considerable attraction to New Jersey.”
The Bergen loop would have been a part of the ARC Tunnel Project, if it had come to fruition, Robins said. “In fact, ARC made a very big bet on the Bergen county market,” he said. “The draft environmental impact study allocated 37 percent of the new slots in the 34th Street station … for Bergen County and New York state riders. That meant it was really a very important part of the addition.”
The Gateway Project doesn’t have as many trains as ARC would have had, according to Robins. “Let’s say in ARC there were 24 new New Jersey Transit trains that were going to be permitted to go into New York,” he said. “Gateway, as presented by Amtrak, presents 13 new trains. Therefore, what you have to do is fit 25 pounds of service into a 13-pound bag.”
Robins said the Gateway Project provides less than the ARC Tunnel would have.
“This is an unfolding story and it’s a very excruciating kind of a negotiation for the New Jersey Transit planners,” Robins said.