Response published by the Asbury Park Press, January 28, 2009

To the Editor, Asbury Park Press:
We disagree with your support for the proposed Hudson River rail tunnels (“Rail project on right track,” Jan. 17). It is disappointing to see no sense of alarm that $9 billion is about to be spent on tunnels that would leave New York’s Penn Station—including half of New Jersey Transit’s Manhattan commuter train capacity and all Amtrak service—cut off from New Jersey if the existing Hudson River tunnels are ever closed. Already, Penn Station-New Jersey service is single-tracked on weekends and on some weekday nights due to maintenance needs.

New York should contribute funding only if the project is redesigned to make sense for the region. Right now, it doesn’t even make sense for New Jersey, whose citizens heavily patronize both commuter and Amtrak trains.

In 2020, no one will care whether this project opened in 2017 or 2019, but they will care passionately about project design—particularly if they have faced the consequences of closures of the existing tunnels.

It is disingenuous to suggest that project critics “work with NJ Transit by looking ahead at how the project could be retrofitted on the New Jersey side and around existing New York infrastructure to better meet any additional needs.” Why consider wasteful “retrofits” that may not even be practical when the project could be partially redesigned before construction? Why would NJT take our views any more seriously next year than they did last year?

Ross B. Capon, President
National Association of Railroad Passengers
Washington, D.C.