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New tunnel will be first trans-Hudson rail expansion in 100 years

March 11, 2009

NEWARK, NJ — The ARC Mass Transit Tunnel is taking an important step toward boosting the New Jersey and regional economy this week with the advertisement of the project’s first contracts --- including an underpass to be constructed beneath Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.


The Tonnelle Avenue underpass contract, which will be released for bids on Friday, will be the first location to go to construction in New Jersey.  The underpass will be adjacent to where the $8.7 billion project goes underground, allowing the MTT’s two new rail tracks to begin their descent under the Palisades Mountain.  That contract is expected to be awarded, and construction to begin, this spring.


In addition, the project will begin advertising Friday for prospective bidders for the design and construction of 21,200 feet of tunneling for the MTT in Manhattan.  Prospective contractors for this tunneling segment are being asked to begin submitting their professional qualifications for review, the first step in the procurement process for that contract.  Qualifications for bidders for the two other tunnel segments, under the Palisades and under the Hudson River, will be requested later this year.


“The importance of the Mass Transit Tunnel, and getting started on construction, cannot be overstated,”
NJ TRANSIT Chairman and Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts said.  “The MTT holds the promise of jobs now, and smoother, less congested commutes in a few years. Both are essential for our state.”


“This action shows our seriousness about starting construction of this shovel-ready project as soon as possible,'' said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia.  ”With these advertisements, we move one step closer to reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality in our region.”


The Manhattan tunnels segment is being advertised on a design-build basis.  The winning contractor will construct the Manhattan segment’s tunnels while simultaneously completing their final design.  Design-build is a proven approach for saving time on major construction projects while also holding down costs.


The Mass Transit Tunnel is New Jersey’s signature transportation project.  The MTT will double commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York, and allow improved rail service within New Jersey, too.  Some 6,000 construction and related jobs will be created and maintained through the project’s completion in 2017, with another 44,000 permanent jobs generated after the tunnel is in service, thanks to the increased mobility and economic competitiveness the MTT will provide.  The Mass Transit Tunnel is being constructed by NJ TRANSIT and its partner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.


“The MTT will open up new possibilities for anyone traveling to New York or within New Jersey,” said
NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Richard Sarles, who thanked Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Senator Robert Menendez and the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation for its staunch support of the project.  “Doubling rail capacity to Manhattan will free up space on NJ TRANSIT’S entire rail system. This will result in more and improved rail service across the state.  And by drawing more riders, the MTT will take 22,000 cars off the New Jersey Turnpike and other highways, reducing traffic and cutting air pollution.”


The Port Authority is proud to be part of such an important transportation project, which will create vitally needed jobs in the short-term and help the region's economic growth in the long-term," said Christopher O. Ward, the Port Authority's executive director.


“The work on the Tonnelle Avenue portion of the ARC Mass Transit Rail tunnel marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in this region’s infrastructure history,” said Susan Bass Levin, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.  “Our agency is proud to join with NJ TRANSIT on this critical project.”

Design Build Tunnel Segments


To ensure that interested contractors have the expertise and capacity to construct such major design-build tunnel projects, this advertisement will request that contractors who wish to bid on the Manhattan tunnel submit their qualifications for review by NJ TRANSIT and the Port Authority.

To maximize bidding competition, NJ TRANSIT is offering innovative stipends of up to $375,000 to each firm that submits a responsive contract proposal and sealed bid. The stipends, which offset a portion of the high cost of developing a proposal for complicated construction works, have been used successfully on major projects across the nation for more than a decade.

Stipends also encourage participation by small or disadvantaged contractors, especially as subcontractors, and the competition that results from having a larger number of bidders reduces costs for the public. The stipend also enables NJ TRANSIT to retain the rights to all submissions and the agency can adapt or adopt design elements and other innovations contained within unsuccessful bids.

Contractors who meet the standards of the qualifications review process will then be invited to submit detailed proposals for designing and building the segment.  NJ TRANSIT and the Port Authority will rigorously review the proposals, and then ask contractors to submit sealed bids for the work. The lowest responsive bid will then be recommended for approval by the NJ TRANSIT board. After board approval, the contract for the Manhattan segment is expected to be awarded later this year.


The contract for the design and construction of the MTT’s tunnels under the Palisades and the Hudson River are expected to be advertised for qualification review later this year.   Evaluation of those proposals will follow the same process


Specific estimates of the contract values cannot be given, due to the potential to influence bidding. However, the cost of the tunnel segments are each likely to be several hundred million dollars. The Tonnelle Avenue underpass may cost more than $20 million.

The existing 100-year-old commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River has only two tracks that are pushed to their functional limits each rush hour with NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak trains. The Mass Transit Tunnel will more than double peak capacity from 23 trains per hour to 48.

In addition to two new side-by-side single-track tunnels, the project will create additional station capacity in Manhattan designed specifically for commuter rail service with wider platforms and more escalators. The new tracks will provide direct access to NYC subway lines, PATH trains and existing Penn Station services.

The project will also create one-seat (direct) commutes to New York for NJ TRANSIT customers on seven commuter rail lines – Main/Bergen County, Port Jervis, Pascack Valley, Montclair-Boonton west of Montclair State University, Morris & Essex west of Dover, Raritan Valley, and North Jersey Coast south of Long Branch, as well as future rail expansion lines.


NJ TRANSIT and the Port Authority are in talks with the Federal Transit Administration to obtain its commitment for the federal government’s $3 billion share of the MTT. Regional funding of $5.7 billion has been committed for the MTT, including $3 billion from the Port Authority and $2.7 billion from New Jersey. Meanwhile, New Jersey has already obtained $130 million in federal stimulus funds for the tunnel.


NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 164 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.