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Gateway Project/NYP Capacity Improvement

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Following are my notes jotted down in a hurry during the session on the Gateway project at TransAction 2013 in Atlantic City. The main event was the presentation by Drew Galloway of Amtrak, which is what my notes focus on.

 

Notes from the Session on the Gateway Project from TransAction 2013

 

This session was chaired by Marty Robins, and the presenters were

 

Drew Galloway, Amtrak

Janet Chernetz, TSTC

 

Marty Robins introduced Drew as one of the people who helped plan the original ARC concept. Afterall Drew did work at NJT once upon a time

 

Notes from Drew's presentation:

 

1. The NEC Region would be the 6th largest nation in the world if it were a separate country.

 

2. It has 17% of the US population and 20% of the US GDP

 

3. NEC spine has about 2000 commuter trains per day, 140 Amtrak trains and 60 freight trains (including 18KTon Coal trains between Perryville and Bayview) per day.

 

4. Amtrak carries about half the net passenger miles on the NEC on its 140 trains.

 

5. Net train miles doubles since 1976, Intercity by 45%, Commuter by 282%

 

6. Penn Station passenger trips went from 200K to 640K

 

7. The most intense mainline operation in the US is on the High Line and North River Tunnels carrying 225 train miles/ track mile per day.

 

8. Two of three Amtrak NEC trips have one leg in NYP.

 

9. Single tracking through North Rivers tunnels on parts of weekends will stay indefinitely.

 

10. Drew showed the track layout for the New York to Newark segment. It shows four tracks all the way. The 4 track layout between Swift and Newark looks suspiciously similar to one I had submitted in one of the RCLC feedbacks and discussed at length with Tom Schulze's staff.

 

11. NYPS (New York Penn South also sometimes referred to as Block 780) is presented as a two phase affair. The first phase has 8 track station with 4 tracks capable of being connected out to the east. The second phases has 6 tracks at a lower level capable of all being extended east to connect to Sunnyside or elsewhere. Connectivity from west to the lower level is through a pair of TBM bored tunnels under 31st St. The lower level station cavern is also to be TBM bored and then expanded under the upper level. No conflicts eastward at the planned depth. I got the sense that this would primarily be of use for future high speed use.

 

12. Train movement capacity is expected to be between 1800 to 2000 per day depending on how much of Gateway is built out. Compare this with about 1200 today, and about 600 in 1976.

 

13. Portal design work is complete. Just need to find $900 million to build it.

 

14 Moynihan Phase I at $250 million is funded, phase II at $600 million is currently unfunded.

 

15. The Hudson Yard real estate proposal is going to add more office space in that area than there is in the entire downtown area of

Minneapolis and St. paul.

 

16. Funding is in place and design is in place for tunnel box to be built under Hudson Yard to protect approach from Hudson Tunnels to the upper level of Penn Station.

 

17. The new tunnels will have access to the existing Penn Station (via U and I Ladder) and to both upper and lower levels of NYPS directly. The existing tunnels will only have access to the existing Penn Station and the upper level of NYPS.

 

18. As for where the tunnels go beyond Penn Station to the east, no decisions at present and the decision will be guided by the NEC Future PEIS.

 

19. Slot allocation will be determined by the NEC Commission and not exclusively by Amtrak or LIRR.

 

20. The new tunnels have exactly the same clearance as the existing tunnels, so no Superliners (in answer to a question from the audience).

 

21. Subway line 7 to Secaucus was mentioned by both Drew and Marty, Drew as a means for potentially taking some pressure off of Penn Station, Marty as a good idea to offload pressure from PABT. The latter actually surprised me pleasantly. I was not expecting it. Actually it was Marty that broached the subject of 7 to Secaucus.

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Interesting stuff right there. I wonder why the tunnels won't be any bigger at all, even marginally, to allow more side and head clearance..

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Trying to get additional head clearance apparently costs hundreds of millions of extra dollars since the tunnel has then to go deeper under the river requiring it to be longer to stay within the vertical gradient profile etc. Basically it is unnecessary since there is never going to be clearance to bring anything larger than what runs into Penn Station today without spending another many hundreds of millions of dollars of money that realistically should be spent on more worthwhile causes than increasing tunnel size.

 

As it stands what will come into Penn Station through the new tunnels is already set in stone with the design of the Tunnel Box under Hudson Yard having been finalized. This will be constructed as part of the Hudson Yard real estate development basically preserving the tunnel space to enter Penn Station from the new Hudson Tunnels. Their height and position is already cast in design and will soon be in concrete within the next couple of years.

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Following are my notes jotted down in a hurry during the session on the Gateway project at TransAction 2013 in Atlantic City. The main event was the presentation by Drew Galloway of Amtrak, which is what my notes focus on.

 

Notes from the Session on the Gateway Project from TransAction 2013

Thanks for posting your notes. There is little specific information available on-line that I am aware about the current concepts for the Gateway project.

 

6. Penn Station passenger trips went from 200K to 640K

The growth in total passenger volume at NYP since the 1970s has been remarkable. Add to that the considerable increase in NYC subway daily passenger numbers over the last 15 years. Project the growth out 10 years and NYP could get overwhelmed on a daily basis. NYC subway system as well. The problem is the sluggish response of the national and regional political systems to do something about it.

 

11. NYPS (New York Penn South also sometimes referred to as Block 780) is presented as a two phase affair. The first phase has 8 track station with 4 tracks capable of being connected out to the east. The second phases has 6 tracks at a lower level capable of all being extended east to connect to Sunnyside or elsewhere. Connectivity from west to the lower level is through a pair of TBM bored tunnels under 31st St. The lower level station cavern is also to be TBM bored and then expanded under the upper level. No conflicts eastward at the planned depth. I got the sense that this would primarily be of use for future high speed use.

Seriously expensive expansion plans. If they build the 2 Hudson River tunnels to the current track level, sounds like they would have to build stub tunnels at the same time for connections to a future lower level. To get pass or under the subway lines, existing utility pipes, and current building supports,I would expect the lower level would have to be pretty deep - as the ARC "Macy's basement" station was to be. New large bank of high speed elevators at NYP to the "crypt" level?

 

15. The Hudson Yard real estate proposal is going to add more office space in that area than there is in the entire downtown area of

Minneapolis and St. Paul.

So Minneapolis and St. Paul are now a unit of office space? :P

 

16. Funding is in place and design is in place for tunnel box to be built under Hudson Yard to protect approach from Hudson Tunnels to the upper level of Penn Station.

There is at least some good funding news in this.

 

20. The new tunnels have exactly the same clearance as the existing tunnels, so no Superliners (in answer to a question from the audience).

That is going to stir up some controversy in the railfan forums who want Superliner or tall bi-levels on the NEC someday. I understand the engineering, tunnel and cost constraints though.

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With the NY subway system and NYP, I think part of the problem is that the subsidy pools available aren't infinite. Granted, I do agree that additional platform space and passenger space are needed (even NYP's Club Acela probably needs to be eventually expanded somehow), but...well, even if the system is never expected to turn a profit, you do have to fund expansions out of a pool of money without slamming the tax base too hard (lest people start having to move back out of NYC).

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Guest Guest

Can tracks be built at the current depth of Penn Station's other tracks without razing the city block?

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Can tracks be built at the current depth of Penn Station's other tracks without razing the city block?

No

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Guest Andrew

1. Realistically speaking, how soon can Amtrak begin work on tunneling under the Hudson River?

 

2. How deep are they looking at for the lower level?

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1. Realistically speaking, how soon can Amtrak begin work on tunneling under the Hudson River?
Whenever funding becomes available. Apparently they will keep working bits of it with minimal funding for the next year or two. Real construction is not likely to start before the latter half of this decade.

2. How deep are they looking at for the lower level?

Deep enough to allow the use of TBM tunneling without disturbing anything above. So at least a hundred feet or so from the surface I'd imagine. And yet not too deep so as to run into the water tunnels. The xact nature of the lower level will be determined in a separate EIS when the time comes. For now it is only about creating bell mouths in the Hudson Tunnes allowing for its later incorporation.

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Trying to get additional head clearance apparently costs hundreds of millions of extra dollars since the tunnel has then to go deeper under the river requiring it to be longer to stay within the vertical gradient profile etc. Basically it is unnecessary since there is never going to be clearance to bring anything larger than what runs into Penn Station today without spending another many hundreds of millions of dollars of money that realistically should be spent on more worthwhile causes than increasing tunnel size.

 

As it stands what will come into Penn Station through the new tunnels is already set in stone with the design of the Tunnel Box under Hudson Yard having been finalized. This will be constructed as part of the Hudson Yard real estate development basically preserving the tunnel space to enter Penn Station from the new Hudson Tunnels. Their height and position is already cast in design and will soon be in concrete within the next couple of years.

 

One of the issues with clearance in the existing North River tubes is the upper side clearance created by the inner wall of the circular-shaped tube. That is what requires the chamfer at the roofline of the NJT multi-levels and the Genesis locomotives. As far as I know, the North River tubes are the only facilities along the NEC that cause that specific geometric constraint.

 

I doubt the box section being constructed under Hudson Yard will have a circular shape, so while the vertical clearance may be set, the overall shape may not be. Within reason, the diameter of a tunnel bored by a TBM can be varied without a huge cost increment. Although bringing Superliners into NYP is just plain silly, I would hope that a the cross-section of a future tunnel would large enough to eliminate the need for the roofline chamfer. That would open the new portion of NYP to a wider variety of off-the-shelf equipment that presently cannot be considered.

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Guest Andrew

1. Is it true that New York City is planning to pass a bond act for the upcoming November 2013 mayoral elections? If this is so, than it would be nice for some of the bond money to go to boring trans-hudson tunnels--in the same way that the 2005 bond act funded construction of East Side Access.

 

2. To speed up the engineering phase of the Gateway Project, what engineering documents from the ARC project can be used for Amtrak's Gateway Project?

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One of the issues with clearance in the existing North River tubes is the upper side clearance created by the inner wall of the circular-shaped tube. That is what requires the chamfer at the roofline of the NJT multi-levels and the Genesis locomotives. As far as I know, the North River tubes are the only facilities along the NEC that cause that specific geometric constraint.

The only constraint that causes the NJT MLVs to need the beveled roof line is at the NYP end of the tunnels, and that too only if the train enters or exits the tunnel via a divrging track at the mouth of the tunnel. Otherwise the tunnel hasr clear 14'6" clearance. The locomotives could also have used the beveled roof line as in MLVs, but since they did not really require a straight roofline otherzise, it was easier to build them with the sloping roofline.

I doubt the box section being constructed under Hudson Yard will have a circular shape, so while the vertical clearance may be set, the overall shape may not be. Within reason, the diameter of a tunnel bored by a TBM can be varied without a huge cost increment. Although bringing Superliners into NYP is just plain silly, I would hope that a the cross-section of a future tunnel would large enough to eliminate the need for the roofline chamfer. That would open the new portion of NYP to a wider variety of off-the-shelf equipment that presently cannot be considered.

What is being constructed is a shell within which the future tunnel will be built. At present it is just protecting the underground RoW, and no tunnel is being built. All that is within the cut and cover zone of tunnel, not TBM.

 

The issue with tunnel diameter is that if the diameter is large then the base of the tunnel under the river has to be lower to make room for the higher head room. That together with the gradient limitation of 2.05% would then require the tunnel to be longer and more curved thus adding to the cost. At least that is how the guy who is managing the project and made the presentation explained it to me.

 

Actually if they could find some spare money, they'd as soon go in and widen the NYP end mouths of the two existing tunnels to remove that single constraint point for clear 14'6" straight roofline clearance. But it won;t be cheap, since they will have to dismantle about 30 feet of bored tunnel lines with steel and concrete and rebuild it with a bigger diameter while making sure that nothing voerhead caves in.

1. Is it true that New York City is planning to pass a bond act for the upcoming November 2013 mayoral elections? If this is so, than it would be nice for some of the bond money to go to boring trans-hudson tunnels--in the same way that the 2005 bond act funded construction of East Side Access.
They still have to complete funding of the ESA. They are not quite out of the wood on that one yet, and not to mention SAS.
2. To speed up the engineering phase of the Gateway Project, what engineering documents from the ARC project can be used for Amtrak's Gateway Project?
Not much. The tunnel is a more or less completely different alignment. They can reuse some of the work at the NJ surface end of things.

 

The recently presented #7 to Secaucus actually substantially uses the original ARC alignment. Gateway does not, because it is in general a tunnel with much shallower end at the New York end. The PB folks who produced the #7 to Secaucus report worked closely with Amtrak to make sure that there are no conflicts of RoW underground.

Edited by jis

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Guest Andrew

Well, I still think that the Gateway Project should be a top candidate for New Starts funding and the RRIF program.

 

I believe that an expanded Penn Station should include a deep-level station, about 100 feet below street level. Than, a mezzanine can be built 25 feet above it, or 75 feet below street level. This still leaves enough space to minimize disruption to current train service as well as nearby buildings.

 

Where would the deep-bored tunnels connect with the box tunnels that are scheduled to begin construction this summer?

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Where would the deep-bored tunnels connect with the box tunnels that are scheduled to begin construction this summer?

tt will not connect with the portion that is being protected through the Gateway Real Estate area. That is north of 31st St. The bell mouth for the deep tube will be around 12th Ave aligned with 31st St, perhaps in the are where they will put up a coffer dam for an access shaft down by the river. The box is being constructed between 11th and 10th Ave between what would be 31st and 32nd St if there were streets there. It is all under what is West Side yard at present.

 

The lower level station is way in the future if ever. It appears that their goal is to first build the shallow level stuff.

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One of the issues with clearance in the existing North River tubes is the upper side clearance created by the inner wall of the circular-shaped tube. That is what requires the chamfer at the roofline of the NJT multi-levels and the Genesis locomotives. As far as I know, the North River tubes are the only facilities along the NEC that cause that specific geometric constraint.

The only constraint that causes the NJT MLVs to need the beveled roof line is at the NYP end of the tunnels, and that too only if the train enters or exits the tunnel via a divrging track at the mouth of the tunnel. Otherwise the tunnel hasr clear 14'6" clearance. The locomotives could also have used the beveled roof line as in MLVs, but since they did not really require a straight roofline otherzise, it was easier to build them with the sloping roofline.

 

I doubt the box section being constructed under Hudson Yard will have a circular shape, so while the vertical clearance may be set, the overall shape may not be. Within reason, the diameter of a tunnel bored by a TBM can be varied without a huge cost increment. Although bringing Superliners into NYP is just plain silly, I would hope that a the cross-section of a future tunnel would large enough to eliminate the need for the roofline chamfer. That would open the new portion of NYP to a wider variety of off-the-shelf equipment that presently cannot be considered.

What is being constructed is a shell within which the future tunnel will be built. At present it is just protecting the underground RoW, and no tunnel is being built. All that is within the cut and cover zone of tunnel, not TBM.

 

The issue with tunnel diameter is that if the diameter is large then the base of the tunnel under the river has to be lower to make room for the higher head room. That together with the gradient limitation of 2.05% would then require the tunnel to be longer and more curved thus adding to the cost. At least that is how the guy who is managing the project and made the presentation explained it to me.

 

Actually if they could find some spare money, they'd as soon go in and widen the NYP end mouths of the two existing tunnels to remove that single constraint point for clear 14'6" straight roofline clearance. But it won;t be cheap, since they will have to dismantle about 30 feet of bored tunnel lines with steel and concrete and rebuild it with a bigger diameter while making sure that nothing voerhead caves in.

 

 

 

 

The North River tunnels are not "bored tunnels", but otherwise I'll just assume you have much closer contact with Amtrak engineering than I have and leave it at that.

Edited by PRR 60

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The North River tunnels are not "bored tunnels", but otherwise I'll just assume you have much closer contact with Amtrak engineering than I have and leave it at that.

 

Yeah my bad use of terminology. I am sure the mistake is mine and Drew explained it much better to me than I did to you guys. I don't claim any expertise at all in Civil Engineering.

 

I suppose the correct terminology is that they are shield driven tunnels under the river, and I suppose dynamited tunnels through the rocks. Coming to think of it, I don't really know for sure to what distance from the bath tub the tunnels were cut and cover, and where exactly the shiled driven or blasted tunnels begin. But whatever the method of digging, the tunnels that come out into the bathtub is iron and concrete lined.

 

The point I was making is that they will have to first dismantle the iron and concrete rings before they can install new bigger diameter ones. And they have to do that while not disturbing stuff above the tunnel.

Edited by jis

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Guest Andrew

Could the current Penn Station handle a few more trans-hudson slots once the tunnels get completed WITHOUT additional platforms and tracks?

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Could the current Penn Station handle a few more trans-hudson slots once the tunnels get completed WITHOUT additional platforms and tracks?

Yes. Right now the big issue isn't the tunnels, but rather A Interlocking which is the ladder tracks on the west side of Penn Station. Those ladder tracks & switches cannot handle more trains, so things would back up in the tunnel coming into NYP if they tried to run more trains. A redesigned A Interlocking would allow for a few more trains even right now with the existing tunnels.

 

Adding still more tunnels, with a properly redesigned A Interlocking would allow for a few more trains most likely. But those new tunnels would never be able to reach their full capacity without more platforms & tracks.

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Guest Andrew

1. What is the depth of Amtrak's current North River Tunnels (or Hudson Tunnels)?

 

2. The link I posted above says that Gateway's "System Design Study" is ongoing in 2013. How does this relate to preliminary engineering?

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1. What is the depth of Amtrak's current North River Tunnels (or Hudson Tunnels)?
At the lowest point I believe it is about 100' below MSL or thereabouts.

2. The link I posted above says that Gateway's "System Design Study" is ongoing in 2013. How does this relate to preliminary engineering?

AFAIK tt's all system design studies now. There is an EIS and engineering ready to construct for the RoW protect box under the Gateway Real Estate footprint. Other than that I suspecy there will not be any EIS work done before the PEIS for NEC is completed in 2015. Until then it is just studies of alternatives and possibilities and preliminary design and conceptualization, occasionally leading to protection of potential use RoW from other developments.

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AFAIK tt's all system design studies now. There is an EIS and engineering ready to construct for the RoW protect box under the Gateway Real Estate footprint. Other than that I suspecy there will not be any EIS work done before the PEIS for NEC is completed in 2015. Until then it is just studies of alternatives and possibilities and preliminary design and conceptualization, occasionally leading to protection of potential use RoW from other developments.

The time to 2015 will have to be spent anyway building the political consensus, coalition, and public support for the Gateway project - or at least the first core components: both Portal bridge replacement, the new Hudson tunnels, future option for South extension. I expect Amtrak, NJT, NY will still be working on building the political and longer term funding support while launching the formal EIS phase - if Amtrak can get funding for a full up Gateway EIS stage. Putting together the coalition and funding for the Gateway project will be a daunting task.

 

For more background for those who have not sat through an Amtrak Gateway presentation, the viewgraphs from a March, 2013 presentation on the NEC & Gateway to the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (building that political support) can be found here. The presentation provided me a better understanding of the current concept for the two level NYP South concourse. That it would be a combined concourse with direct access under the street from the current NYP lower concourse corridors is a big improvement over the 1 block away ARC "Macy's basement" extension plan.

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Guest Andrew

Did the presentation by any chance mention how long it would take to build the actual Penn Station South Expansion? I am trying to get a firm grasp of how long it would take to essentially built a new major section to a large terminal.

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Did the presentation by any chance mention how long it would take to build the actual Penn Station South Expansion? I am trying to get a firm grasp of how long it would take to essentially built a new major section to a large terminal.

The presentation is a modest sized PDF file. Not difficult to read. However, with respect to your question, I doubt if it can be answered beyond a hand waving guess of N years. The project is only in the conceptual and feasibility study phase. There is a long way to go before a Preliminary Engineering and design stage that might estimate how long the property acquisition and construction phase might take. That, of course, ignores what is likely to be a very long process to get the funding for the earlier phases of the Gateway project.

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The biggest challenge will be real estate acquisition, something that could break the bank. Afterall it was real estate acquisition that finally broke the bank for good for ARC. Acquiring a whole block in Manhattan is not going to be cheap, and they will have to get a whole lot of Manhattan politicians and real estate wheelers and dealers on board to pull the Block 780 acquisition off.

 

Currently it is not a foregone conclusion that NYP South will ever be built. Many proverbial fat ladies have to sing first before that happens.

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