Hudson Tunnel Project

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Photo courtesy of MTA


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT) as joint lead agencies are preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to evaluate the Hudson Tunnel Project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA is a law that requires federal agencies to evaluate the impacts on the human and natural environment of projects they may approve or fund. The DEIS also contains a Draft Programmatic Agreement prepared in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, a law that requires consideration of cultural, historic, and archaeological impacts.

The Project is intended to preserve the current functionality of the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York and strengthen the resiliency of the NEC. The Preferred Alternative is the alternative that FRA and NJ TRANSIT have identified as best meeting the Project’s purpose and need. The Preferred Alternative would consist of construction of a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, including tracks and other railroad infrastructure in New Jersey and New York connecting the new rail tunnel to the existing NEC, and rehabilitation of the existing NEC tunnel beneath the Hudson River, referred to as the North River Tunnel.

The North River Tunnel is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and by NJ TRANSIT for commuter rail service. The approach to the tunnel begins east of NJ TRANSIT’s Frank R. Lautenberg Station in Secaucus, NJ (which is 5 miles east of Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT’s Newark Penn Station). East of the Secaucus station, the NEC has two tracks that approach the tunnel on a raised embankment through the towns of Secaucus and North Bergen, NJ. Tracks enter a tunnel portal in North Bergen, passing beneath Union City and Weehawken, NJ and the Hudson River before emerging within the Penn Station New York (PSNY) rail complex in New York City. The tunnel has two separate tubes, each accommodating a single track for electrically powered trains, and extends approximately 2.5 miles from the tunnel portal in North Bergen to PSNY.  The existing North River Tunnel is a critical NEC asset and is the only intercity passenger rail crossing into New York City from New Jersey and areas west and south.

Service reliability throughout the tunnel has been compromised because of the damage to tunnel components caused by Superstorm Sandy, which inundated both tubes in the North River Tunnel with seawater in October 2012, resulting in the cancellation of all Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT service into New York City for five days. While the tunnel was restored to service and is now safe for travel, chlorides from the seawater remain in the tunnel’s concrete liner and bench walls, causing ongoing damage to various tunnel components and systems.

The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy is compounded by the tunnel’s age and the intensity of its current use (operating at full peak period capacity to meet current demands). While safe for use, frequent maintenance is required but is disruptive to the users of the tunnel.

Moving Forward

The purpose of the Project is: to preserve the current functionality of Amtrak’s NEC service and NJ TRANSIT’s commuter rail service between New Jersey and Penn Station New York (PSNY) by repairing the existing North River Tunnel; and to strengthen the NEC’s resiliency to support reliable rail service by providing redundant capability under the Hudson River for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT NEC trains. These improvements must be achieved while maintaining uninterrupted commuter and intercity rail service.

The new rail tunnel is being constructed so that NEC service can be transferred to it while the existing North River Tunnel is rehabilitated. When completed, the Preferred Alternative would result in transportation benefits, including increased reliability through improved resiliency and redundant operational capability.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been prepared for the Hudson Tunnel Project, and the public had an opportunity to comment on the content of the DEIS through August 21, 2017.

The existing tunnel portals were constructed in 1910.

The existing tunnel portal was constructed in 1910. Source: Edward Hungerford