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Cross Harbor Tunnel idea pitched again in Port Authority study

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

UPDATED: Friday, Oct. 2, 10:32 a.m.

The Cross Harbor Freight Rail Tunnel idea killed a decade ago appears to be coming back to life.

The idea was one of two preferred alternatives recommended in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which was released on Sept. 25, for their Cross Harbor Freight Program (CHFP), which considers increasing freight shipments across the harbor and reducing traffic on Hudson River bridges and tunnels.

The Tier I FEIS narrowed down the list of possible alternatives and identified two preferred methods that will be recommended for advancement to the Tier II study for more a detailed analysis: an enhanced railcar float alternative and the rail tunnel.

In November of last year, PANYNJ and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which examined the transportation and environmental effects of several alternatives to moving freight by truck, which was open for public comment. The public comments and input on the original DEIS were considered when selecting the pair of preferred alternatives.

According to the FEIS, “The Enhanced Railcar Float Alternative with both carload and intermodal service between Greenville and Brooklyn would divert 2.8 million tons of freight per year (in addition to a “no action” alternative)—more than any other Waterborne Alternative or option.”

As it pertains to the rail tunnel alternative, the FEIS found that “The Rail Tunnel Alternative would divert between 7.2 and 9.6 million tons of freight per year, depending on the different operating scenarios affecting the potential to capture through trip long-haul truck markets.”

Local civic group Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) does not believe a rail tunnel alternative would benefit the community when there are more pressing matters at hand.

“PANYNJ is still spending taxpayers’ money planning the $10 billion Cross Harbor Tunnel to nowhere,” the civic group said in an email to the Ridgewood Times. “Instead of spending millions more planning a fantasy tunnel for a fantasy freight rail system, let’s see LIRR and NYSDEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) develop and implement standards and protocols that make the one actual train a day with 24 cars that comes from Tunnel Hill Partners to Fresh Pond Yard functional, clean, healthy and safe for commuters, host communities, the railroads and their customers.”

The Tier I FEIS is available for public review until Oct. 26, when a record of decision (ROD) will be issued by the FHWA. Neither the Tier I FEIS, nor the Tier I ROD, constitutes a final decision to implement any of the alternatives that have been under consideration.

The ROD will address any new or substantive comments that are made during this public review period.

Comments on the Tier I FEIS can be mailed to Cross Harbor Freight Program, c/o InGroup Inc. P.O. Box 206, Midland Park, NJ 07432; submitted through the Cross Harbor Study website; or by emailing crossharborstudy@ingroupinc.com with “FEIS Comment” in the subject line.

The Tier I FEIS is also available for download at the Cross Harbor Study website. It can also be viewed at more than 40 repositories in our region, which can be located through the website.

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