Hell of a Way to Run a RR, Brownie
by John Delach
Railroads for 20 points: The most traveled stretch of passenger railroads in America:
What is Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor?
Correct, for 30 points: The most densely trafficked part of the Northeast Corridor:
What is New York’s Penn Station?
Correct and finally: The least funded, least cared for and most neglected transportation operator in the US of A.
What is Amtrak?
West of Manhattan across the Hudson River, twin, hundred-year-old tunnel portals mark the point where Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains transition to and from daylight. Just beyond the Jersey swamps (a.k.a. Meadowlands) these tunnels flow under the Hudson River and into Pennsylvania Station. These tunnels are very sick. They are obsolete and overworked trafficked by more trains daily than the builders could have envisioned. As if that wasn’t enough, super storm Sandy’s aftermath is coming due creating high-anxiety for the engineers responsible for the safe movement of passengers and crews.
When Sandy hit New York City, it flooded the West Side causing the Hudson to cascade into the tracks leading to Penn Station. Those engineers faced a Hobson’s choice, let Penn Station flood causing an irreparable catastrophe, or open the flood gates into the tubes flooding them but sparing the station. Wisely, they sacrificed the tubes.
Massive pumps drained these tubes and in a few days, trains began to run again. One month shy of the second anniversary of this massive storm, Amtrak issued a report that the inundation by salt water has had a continuing and lasting effect on the inner workings of the tubes, roadbeds, tracks, signals, and even the very concrete linings. They are failing and the only alternative will be to close the tubes, gut them, re-waterproof, re-line with new concrete and install entire new roadbeds, tracks and electrical equipment. To do this work would mean closing each tube for at least a year.
Amtrak says insurance will pay for this to the tune of $350 million more or less. As a retired insurance broker, I caution, “Don’t bet the ranch on it.”
It gets worse. The New York Times reports: “But shutting one of the two tracks in the tunnel under the Hudson River would cut service by about 75 percent because trains headed into New York would have to share the remaining track with trains headed west from the city…an unacceptable effect on travel in the metropolitan area.”
Amtrak’s solution, delay this apocalypse until a new tunnel can be laid under the Hudson River. Why this grand idea already has a name, “the Gateway project.” Anthony R. Coscia, Amtrak’s chairman told reporters: “…having the added capacity would make the shutdown more tolerable for the tens of thousands of commuters who pass through the Hudson tunnels each weekday.”
Isn’t that just swell? To the nearest billion dollars, name the amount funded for the Gateway Project? The correct answer: Zero point Zero!
That’s not all; two of the four tubes under the East River suffered the same kind of lasting damage from Sandy as their Hudson River cousins. Estimated cost to rectify, another $350 million, but at least three tubes would remain open while one was closed at a time. Back in New Jersey, just northeast of the town of Harrison, stands a two-track 100 plus year-old swing bridge called the Portal Bridge that is also in bad shape. Each time it is opened to permit the passage of marine traffic, it’s a crapshoot whether it aligns properly when it is closed. Same story…billions are needed to replace it but not one penny has been set aside to fund it.
Sad, isn’t it:
Once I built a railroad,
made it run,
made it run against time.
Once I built a railroad,
Now it’s done.
Buddy can you spare a dime.
Very thought provoking, as it reminds me that the entire US transportation infrastructure is in about the same (or worse) condition. Take a look at just about any of the interstate bridges…makes you pucker when crossing one…particularly when stuck on one in multi-lane, bumper to bumper traffic. The truth is that no one really gives a big rat’s a… Just kick the old can down the road.
Sent from my iPad
Timing is everything! From the Business Section of today’s NY Times: “Backers of a Maglev Train Hope to Outpace Acela in the Northeast Corridor.” A Japanese firm has its Governments commitment to spend $5 Billion of the $10 Billion projected to build the first part of a maglev route between DC and Baltimore.
They have a flock of former heavy hitters to push this along, Christie Todd Whitman, Tom Dashle, George Pataki and Ed Rendell because the aricle notes: “Given the project’s cost, the maglev company would need support from the federal government, but transportataion advocates are skeptical that it will be forthcoming.”
Loved this one! How are you?
John, An adaptation of an article you sent me a few weeks ago but with a few twists and made easier to understand. I really do wish I knew who wrote flood on underwater tunnels and what they charged or should be charging. I’ve finished God/Baseball and it was a tedious read for several reasons. The first has nothing to do with the book but with me. My vision has been getting worse the last few years due to cataract formation. Last spring it wasn’t quite bad enough for surgery. Now it is and I thought it would be a quick job. Turns out the ophtalmologist(tough one to spell) found thickening of the retina which could be as much responsible for the vision problems as the cataracts. So now I’ve got to wait until next month to see a retina specialist and if it needs surgery it’s apparently now as quick and easy as cataracts. But back to the book and by the way was Sexton at St. Francis when you were? There have been many books detailing the situations he covers and probably he felt there wasn’t need for yet another one so wove it into a spiritual yarn. I just couldn’t get into that part of it and found myself skipping paragraphs a good deal of the time. But there was new information which was worth the tedium. Cornelius McGillicudy??? Who knew. Definitely not a good name for a stadium. I also had no idea Doris K Goodwin was a big baseball fan and may get her “Wait Until Next Year” for Judy who attended Dodger games with her father when she was a young tyke living off Flatbush Ave. I’ve begun the Kurt Karlsen one and it seems like I’ll enjoy it. I”ll hold the Sexton book until I’m ready to mail back Kurt Karlsen unless you want it earlier. I sent you a couple of clippings yesterday and should have waited as I found two more this AM that could be of interest including one from our local paper which almost never has anything of interest besides the police blotter. Did you see that young Ventura kid pitching for the Royals last night? He can really bring the heat so effortlessly it’s remarkable. But it’s also obvious heat alone won’t be enough in the long run. MLB hitters can, after a few at bats, learn to time even a 98 mph pitch delivered down the middle and those balls go back faster than they come in. He needs some coaching to work on a change and a curve. If he can learn those and some better control there’s no telling how good he could be. I also wonder how long his arm can hold up considering how slight he is and how the speed comes all from the arm. People are getting ready for the FL/GA game. I met with our financial guy, who’s a UGA grad, and he’s rented a 55 passenger coach and lined up a bunch to take them from Savannah and back. There’s a local PGA tournament this week so that’s getting some of the sports attention but by Sunday evening the parties will be starting. Geoff