The consulting firm submitted a final report in late 1980, highlighting a number of defi ciencies in the existing maintenance system. The study noted the lack of a facility or location that had adequate available space or ready accessibility to handle all of the repairs, inspections and servicing necessary to maintain a rail fleet. The report also noted serious drawbacks to the shops that were candidates for rehabilitation or upgrading at the time. Examples cited included the inadequacy of the Hoboken Electrical MU Shed, which was designed for light repair only, and the fact that the Elizabethport Locomotive Shop - the only facility capable of heavy locomotive repairs - was accessible only by deadhead (non-revenue) moves. Other, smaller shops would require significant modifications. The consultants recommended that a heavy repair, service and inspection complex be built at Koppers Coke, Kearny and that various improvements be made at other locations. In mid-1980, based on the consultants' preliminary reports, the NJ Transit board of directors approved (contingent upon UMTA funding) the acquisition of the Koppers Coke site and the entire project in principle. However, NJ Transit contacted UMTA in 1981 for approval to change the proposed location of the complex after it became apparent that the Koppers Coke site had more environmental problems than originally thought and additional land became available at the Conrail Meadows Yard, where the MMC stands today.
With NJ Transit still being such a young entity during the design phase, the size of its staff grew considerably from 1981 to 1984. With this growth, most of the original concepts for the new maintenance facility were revised and expanded, while others were dropped entirely.
By the mid-1980s, the need for a centralized, comprehensive maintenance complex could be even more readily justified than in 1975. The inadequacies of the Hoboken MU Shed became more apparent after new multiple unit electric rail cars came on line in August 1984. The lack of high voltage power in the shop meant costly overtime until the cars could be brought out through the main interlocking after the peak period for postinspection testing. Without a drop table, the cars had to be sent to another part of the yard or to the Elizabethport Shop for under fl oor component work. Repair and inspection tasks at the shed proved diffi cult and less safe as a result of the narrow aisles, shallow pits and medium height raised rail, based on 1930s technology.
The Elizabethport Shop presented just as many problems as the Hoboken MU Shed. Its location was not central to NJ Transit operating lines and proved virtually inaccessible from the Hoboken Division. Much of the equipment in the shop was antiquated and in poor repair, and the building itself had been in use since 1901. As such, NJ Transit declined to take over the shop from Conrail by provisions of various acts.
Meanwhile, NJ Transit faced problems with maintaining new or overhauled rolling stock outdoors. By default, outdoor maintenance is not as safe or efficient as indoor maintenance, and the necessity of performing intermediate repairs and inspections on locomotives outdoors at Hoboken led to some costly "mini-overhauls" in the early 1980s.
Ultimately, construction of the MMC would provide NJ Transit with the capability to maintain equipment closer to manufacturer's standards, reducing the frequency of replacement, as well as the ability to perform certain activities in-house for less than an outside vendor's cost. It would also result in the elimination of duplicate stores and shops, as well as several energy-inefficient locations. And, it would reduce the number of deadhead miles and the time associated with moving equipment to and from the different yards and shops.
BUILDING A FACILITY
The MMC project involved a total of 17 contracts, including one design, 12 preparation and construction, and four force account agreements variously between NJ Transit, Amtrak, PSE&G and Conrail. The facility was designed by joint venture firm Seelye, Stevenson, Value & Knecht and Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall, beginning in early 1982 and finishing in late 1984, with continuous overview by NJ Transit Rail Operations engineering and mechanical department staff.
The project included the construction of eight buildings, totaling 513,000 square feet under roof (11.8 acres), and installation of 12 to 13 miles of track on a 78-acre site at a total project cost of approximately $123 million.
Additional work included the installation of 12 miles of track, including 90 switches and signals in the yard to connect with main rail lines, performed by NJ Transit Rail Operations, as well as track, communications and signal work to link the Harrison Connection with the Northeast Corridor, performed by Amtrak.
To construct the MMC, roughly 8,000,000 pounds of steel were erected and 30,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured. In addition, 500,000 cubic yards of soil were removed from under what would become the main shop building and were used to build up the average yard elevation. To provide for a better foundation under the future building, the soil was replaced by 500,000 cubic yards of compacted fill.
The physical move into the MMC began on July 13, 1987, and was completed in November 1987. The move entailed transferring approximately 195 tractor-trailer loads of material and equipment.