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Tubes Open Gateway to Rail Relief

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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It’s a multi-billion-dollar underground infrastructure project that has not officially started yet in part of the country where ailing transportation routes are consuming significant resources.

And those are just some of the reasons why the construction of concrete rail tunnels under Manhattan are impressive, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

The tubes and their casings represent a $185 million first step in the Gateway project. In all, the projected $20 billion Amtrak project includes building new tunnels under the Hudson River to connect New York and New Jersey, and relieve an overcrowded rail system, according to multiple media reports.

Preserving a Route

According to The Times, work on the new tunnels began in 2013. They run between 10th Street and 11th Avenue just west of Pennsylvania Station and help preserve Amtrak’s underground right-of-way while officials in two states—and the federal government—work out the details of the full project.

As a reporter descended into the underground concrete casings to get a first-hand look of the project, the civil engineer in charge could barely conceal his pride, the report noted.

Reporters with The New York Times explore underground tubes that will become part of the Gateway project.

“Welcome to our cavern,” James McCarron—director of design support for Amtrak—told the reporter as his voice echoed down one of the 850-foot-long tubes below the Long Island Rail Road yards. “Impressive, isn’t it?”

As the daily newspaper notes, the tunnels are two stories tall and large enough for either an Amtrak or NJ Transit train. But that is not going to happen for a while. The tunnels under the Hudson are scheduled to be completed by 2025, but the Gateway project itself will not wrap up until 2040.

Funding to build the tunnels was “[o]ne of the few silver linings of [Hurricane] Sandy,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, of New York. The Federal Transit Administration’s emergency relief account provided the money after the 2012 storm flooded the existing 105-year-old tunnels under the Hudson, the senator told The Times.

Those tunnels have only between 10 to 20 years of service life left before they must be shut down, one at a time, for renovation, reports indicate.

What’s most interesting, the newspaper said, is that the route for a future project has been preserved during a time when most infrastructure projects have a difficult time find the funding to proceed.

About 68,000 cubic yards of rock and earth had to be excavated for the project to get underway. The tubes themselves are enveloped in 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, with 6,500 tons of steel rebar inside.

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The new tunnels under Manhattan (not shown) are two stories tall and wide enough to accommodate a NJ Transit or Amtrak Train.

The new tunnels give trains a clear path to Penn Station from West 30th Street through a “forest of columns” beneath Hudson Yards, according to the newspaper.

Gateway Progress

Meanwhile, the proposed new tunnels under the river that eventually will connect to these inner-city tunnels also got a boost from the NJ Transit’s board of directors.

On Oct. 14, the board authorized negotiations with Amtrak to create a memorandum of understanding that would allow the transportation officials to move ahead with the required environmental permitting process, according to an article in the Daily Record.

“That is the first step to advancing a trans-Hudson tunnel program,” said Veronique Hakim, NJ Transit’s executive director. “Clearly, it’s an exciting day for NJ Transit and for our region.”

Once the memorandum is approved, NJ Transit will hire a consultant to oversee the National Environmental Policy Act studies, the Daily Record reported. The process to acquire an environmental permit takes between two and four years.

Both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie have asked the federal government to split the cost with the states and provide a grant for half of the amount, the newspaper said.


Tagged categories: Concrete; Government; Government contracts; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail; Railcars; Tunnel

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