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Milestone reached as project moves into construction phase

May 13, 2009                                                                                           

NEWARK, NJ — The NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors advanced the nation’s largest new public transportation project into the construction phase this morning by unanimously approving the first of numerous contract packages for the multi-billion-dollar Mass Transit Tunnel (MTT) initiative.


The board action sets the stage for a MTT groundbreaking ceremony in the coming weeks and green-lights construction of a railroad underpass at Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.  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 Palisades Mountain.


“This project is now advancing toward a phase that will create thousands of well-paying jobs and help New Jersey residents rebound from this difficult global recession,” said Governor Jon S. Corzine.  “When completed, we will have a lasting infrastructure investment that benefits the environment by relieving congested roadways and provides better workforce mobility to stimulate business growth and job opportunities in the region.”



“This is a significant milestone in our effort to begin putting people to work building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said.  “This major public works project in our region will create jobs, reduce congestion on our roads and provide new, energy-efficient options for travelers.”


“Years of hard work to secure funding and support at the federal and local levels have brought us to the point where we can now get shovels in the ground, get people to work and get on track to easing commutes for our residents,” said New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez.  “This project is a textbook example of what President Obama means when he calls for investments that help the economy recover with job creation today and help lay the foundation for economic security."


The Board’s approval of the project’s first construction contract follows last week’s announcement that President Barack Obama is including $200 million in additional funding for the project in the FY 2010 federal budget, bringing the total federal commitment to date to $378 million. 


Of even greater importance was the announcement that the Mass Transit Tunnel project is being recommended for an Early Systems Work Agreement which formalizes the federal government’s long-term funding commitment.


“Thoughtful planning, careful design work and extensive community outreach over a period of 14 years put us in a position to take advantage of federal stimulus funding for this segment of what is without a doubt New Jersey’s most important infrastructure project,” said NJ TRANSIT Chairman and Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts.


"Today's contract award underscores what we've been saying for some time: the ARC rail tunnel is shovel-ready,'' said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia.  “This project of national significance will provide much-needed jobs during the recession and support our region's economic growth for decades to come."


The Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Mass Transit Tunnel project will more than double the number of trains that can travel between New Jersey and New York to 48 per hour, from the current 23. This will eliminate a bottleneck along the existing two rail tracks which are pushed to their functional limits during every peak travel period. 


The additional capacity will create one-seat (transfer-free) rides to and from New York for thousands of customers on ten existing NJ TRANSIT commuter rail lines and future lines as the statewide commuter rail system is expanded.


NJ TRANSIT and its partner, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, have committed $5.7 billion to the project and are seeking federal participation of $3 billion. 


Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, and Governor Corzine in his current position and former role as a New Jersey Senator, have been stalwart advocates for the project, along with the other members of the New Jersey and New York Congressional delegations.


The underpass contract approved today is being funded with a portion of NJ TRANSIT’s
$424 million share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Future contracts will build the tunnels that will carry NJ TRANSIT trains under the Palisades, under the Hudson River and to and from an expanded New York Penn Station.



"Cooperation and shared funding between New York, New Jersey and the federal government have brought the ARC mass transit tunnel a long way,'' said Christopher O. Ward, the Port Authority's executive director. "This is truly an economic growth project with regional and national implications."


“This contract approval heralds the start of a project that promises enormous benefits to our customers for many decades to come,” said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Richard Sarles.  “The Mass Transit Tunnel will build capacity for future ridership growth, will create direct New York service for thousands of additional customers every day and will provide added flexibility for railroad operations.”  


"The Tonnelle Avenue underpass work will mark the start of one of the great infrastructure projects in the region's history,'' said Susan Bass Levin, the Port Authority's deputy executive director.  "This contract will produce the first of eventually 6,000 construction-related jobs annually in the short term and a tunnel that will spur economic growth in the long term."


The $13.6 million construction contract will be awarded to Ferreira Construction Co. Inc. of Branchburg.  In addition to the Tonnelle Avenue underpass, the contract calls for relocation of utilities and construction of a new railroad embankment immediately west of Tonnelle Avenue.


The Board also authorized amendments to existing construction management, construction assistance design services and insurance contracts for services and coverage associated with the underpass project.


Tonnelle Avenue’s four traffic lanes will remain open during construction, except for some night-time periods when traffic volumes are low. 


The underpass project is expected to be completed in 2012.


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.