Officials: Failure of Hudson River rail tunnel would be ‘devastating’ to country

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Concerns over the possibility of shut down of a Hudson River rail tunnel has prompted officials to brief the public about possible impacts.

Hundreds of trains travel through the tunnels each day and officials say that this infrastructure is failing. The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition held a meeting in Cranford Monday evening to explain those potential impacts based on a February report by the Regional Plan Association.

"This is an ancient tunnel I think by the standards of our day when we're getting a new iPhone model every couple of years,” says Raritan Valley Rail Coalition chairman Bruce Bergen.

Monday’s presentation was titled “A Preventable Crisis."

"The report talks about the extreme economic effects if one of the two current Hudson River tunnels fails as well as the effect it would have on people's lives,” Bergen says. "The effect would be devastating to North Jersey, to this whole region, and I believe to the entire country."

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The New Jersey Director for the Regional Plan Association says that the report looks at the effects during a controlled repair- taking one tunnel out at a time for two years each. And he says even the loss of one tunnel can have a serious impact.

"When you take one tunnel out of service you might intuitively think that that reduces your train capacity by half, but in fact, it reduces it by 75%,” says New Jersey Regional Plan Association director Nat Bottingheimer.

Bottingheimer says that a tunnel shutdown would not only impact rail riders but all of those commuting in North Jersey. He says that it would have a tremendous effect on real estate values and potentially property taxes as well.

"What we're looking for is to have all new tunnels put in so that when it comes time to replace those tunnels, there's something right there ready for trains to go back and forth through,” Bottingheimer says, adding that financial support is important.

"What we want is for people to be motivated to continue telling their elected representatives how important getting funding for not only the North Portal Bridge but for a new set of tunnels underneath the Hudson River,” Bottingheimer says.

Bergen says that it is important to get this project completed as soon as possible.

"Are one of the two tunnels going to fail tomorrow, next week, a month from now, a year from now? I don't know. But it's a gamble that we can't afford to take,” he says.

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