Video Shows Threat to Region From Crumbling Cross-Hudson Rail Tunnels

Oct. 28, 2015

What would happen if one of the Hudson River rail tunnels linking New Jersey to Manhattan had to be shut down for extended repairs? Nearly 100,000 people would find their daily commutes upended. NJ Transit and Amtrak would slash service by 75 percent or more as they attempted to keep trains running through a single remaining tunnel. Waits on crowded platforms and at stations would soar. Roadways would be clogged as people opted to drive instead. Many commuters wouldn’t be able to get to work at all.

Regional Plan Association has created a short animated video, “Tunnel Trouble,” that describes the essential role the tunnels play in the region’s economy and explains why new tunnels are needed.

The existing tunnels, which were built more than 100 years ago, have long been in need of major repairs. Their condition worsened after Superstorm Sandy, when saltwater flooding began eroding walls and wiring. Even if the tunnels were in pristine condition, they can’t by themselves handle passenger demand, which has more than doubled since 1990 and is projected to grow by more than 40 percent by 2040.

Mechanical problems in the aging tunnels are the source of frequent delays. This summer, power problems tied to Depression-era electrical systems led to hourslong backups in the tunnels and delays that rippled from Washington, D.C., to Boston. 

“With this video we hope to illustrate, in an engaging way, the crisis we are facing in trans-Hudson transportation,” said RPA President Tom Wright. “If we don’t act now to shore up and expand our infrastructure, we are risking an economic disaster whose effects would be felt far beyond the New York metropolitan region.”