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 Plans of Downtown PATH - Lexington Avenue Connection

 July 18, 2002

Proposed connection of PATH Tubes and Lexington Avenue IRTThe New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), the state rail advocacy group founded in 1980, urges Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey, Governor George Pataki of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City to consider linking the downtown PATH line with the Lexington Avenue subway, in concert with the rebuilding of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

This once-in-a-century opportunity benefits both states and the entire metropolitan area. New Jersey residents benefit by directly accessing not only the rebuilt lower Manhattan business district but also the ever-expanding upper east midtown Manhattan employment district. Such accessibility could occur from as diverse locations as Newark, Hoboken, and Jersey City and, with New Jersey Transit connections, Trenton, Morristown, Long Branch, Westfield and Ridgewood. New York City employers benefit by attracting a skilled New Jersey workforce to their conveniently located Manhattan employment locations. New York City residents who relocated to New Jersey following the World Trade Center terror attack would benefit by a more direct commute to their work place. The entire metropolitan region would benefit by concentrating expanding economic activities in the concentrated urban core areas rather than the auto dependant suburban sprawl office complexes in both states.

The NJ-ARP proposal -- deemed technologically feasible by transit professionals -- would:

  1. Expand the use of existing downtown PATH rail infrastructure now being rehabilitated between New York and New Jersey;
  2. Adapt PATH to changed transportation patterns in the metropolitan region subsequent to the events of 9/11; and,
  3. Augment the remaining overstressed trans-Hudson rail tunnels.

Link to connection mapThe proposal is simply this: PATH's downtown New York line would be linked to the MTA's Lexington Avenue #6 local line. Trains would proceed on this New York City Transit right-of-way ending the service at either of the two current Bronx Parkchester or Pelham Bay Park terminals. This linkage is possible because PATH and Lexington Avenue Line car exterior dimensions, propulsion voltage and signal systems are relatively similar. This extension of PATH service would permit transfer to the Lexington Avenue #4 and #5 express lines at City Hall station, 14th Street, 42nd Street, 59th Street, 86th Street and 125th Street in Manhattan. It would finally begin the slow process of integrating the transit systems of both states and -- for the first time -- put the "metropolitan" into the "Metropolitan Transportation Authority."

Prior to the World Trade Center attack, 60,000 riders used the downtown PATH line to lower Manhattan and the artery was at maximum capacity. Currently the line is inoperative; even when restored to service on a temporary basis by December 2003, ridership is expected to be a fraction of its former volume. As a result, these downtown tunnels will have unused capacity that could relieve the daily overcrowding being experienced on the only two remaining trans-Hudson rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey. PATH's uptown 33rd Street line has seen its ridership more than double, while New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor (NEC) line has surged in usage -- more than 30,000 additional passengers a day -- as businesses relocated their personnel and operations to transit accessible midtown Manhattan.

But this already high demand for rail services to midtown Manhattan likely will be exacerbated to an even greater extent in the next several years by NJT passengers from:

  1. Growth on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast and Morris & Essex lines;
  2. The Newark International Airport Northeast Corridor monorail transfer station;
  3. The Montclair Connection, expected to be in service September 2002 (allowing Boonton line and Montclair branch riders access to New York's Penn Station either directly or through a convenient transfer);
  4. The Secaucus Transfer station, expected to be in service in 2003 (permitting Main-Bergen-Pascack line riders access to New York's Penn Station);
  5. The Raritan Valley line once direct access to New York's Penn Station is achieved either by electrification or with dual-mode diesel and electric locomotives; and,
  6. The Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) proposed central New Jersey route (offering those county's residents access to New Brunswick, Newark and New York's Penn Station).

Acting in concert, these six elements will continue to overwhelm already existing post 9/11 capacity increases and lead to further service degradation on the already intensively used two track Amtrak Northeast Corridor entry tunnels to midtown Manhattan.

Clearly, additional trans-Hudson rail capacity is needed immediately, not in the far distant future.

Another delayed -- but desperately needed -- rail transportation infrastructure improvement that directly influences and supports the NJ-ARP proposal to link the downtown PATH with the Lexington Avenue subway is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's "Access to the Region's Core" (ARC) study. Having as its announced goal the expansion of the tri-state regional rail capacity and network, the study's first two phases concluded that additional trans-Hudson rail tunnels are mandatory. A key consideration in the initiation of this study almost a decade ago was the critical determination that about 70% of all midtown jobs are within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal as compared to 36% for Penn Station. Additional New Jersey residents, it has been argued, would be encouraged to seek employment in midtown Manhattan if the ease of access to the area's employers were facilitated. The importance of enhanced upper east midtown access has been heightened even more since many employers have relocated their offices following the terrorist attack. So it is likely that an even greater proportion of job sites are now within close proximity of Grand Central Terminal. But very little relief is in sight, hence NJ-ARP's concern and the development of this proposal.

The three finalist candidates in the ARC proceedings -- and all of them include two additional trans-Hudson regional rail tracks parallel to the existing ones to New York's Penn Station - are still in the planning stages with no final selection yet being made. Funding has been made available only for continuing studies from the PA and federal agencies. NJ-ARP has endorsed Alternative "G" which will provide expanded tri-state rail mobility options by also building a connecting tunnel between New York's Penn Station and the conveniently located Grand Central Terminal in the heart of midtown New York City. However, its implementation is years -- if not decades -- in the future.

Further concerns center on the condition of the existing two-track trans-Hudson tunnels which were completed for the opening of New York's Pennsylvania Station in September 1910 and are now approaching 95 years in age. While $54 million will be spent shortly to improve the safety of these tunnels as a result of a federal anti-terrorism appropriation, any closure of these aging facilities for overhaul or intensive maintenance would congeal rail access to New York City. The resulting delays would be unacceptable to passengers and severely impact the economic viability of the entire tri-state region. Current estimates place the rehabilitation of both the Hudson and East River tunnels at $1 billion in the next decade.

NJ-ARP has concluded that most -- if not all -- of the benefits expected to be provided by the Port Authority's Access to the Region's Core project can be achieved quickly on a temporary basis within three-to-four years. This is based on our analysis of the construction of a permanent connection between the downtown PATH line and the Lexington Avenue subway in conjunction with the rebuilding efforts at the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. These benefits include:

  1. An expeditious way to quickly provide direct rail transportation access for New Jersey residents who work in Manhattan's redeveloping lower Manhattan business district and rapidly expanding upper east midtown area either by choice or because of employer relocation in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack;
  2. Access by New York City downtown and midtown employers to a skilled labor pool in New Jersey's urban cores and suburban areas;
  3. Assisting New York City residents to reach job sites in New Jersey due to relocation after Sept. 11;
  4. An encouragement for existing businesses to expand, and newly established businesses to locate, in traditional centralized urban cores instead of outlying suburban locations; and,
  5. A reduction in urban sprawl and a contribution to environmental clean up activities.

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