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NJ Transit ARC project Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a new cross-Hudson rail tunnel and NJ Transit station under West 34th Street

WHEREAS, Manhattan Community Board Five (CB5) has been asked to review the March 2008 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) prepared by NJ Transit for a new cross-Hudson rail tunnel to the West Side of Manhattan, and

WHEREAS, The Board supports a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River as a means to meet present and future demand from commuters coming from New Jersey and encourages all efforts to ensure that this demand is met through additional capacity for mass transit; and

WHEREAS, The plan described in the SDEIS calls for modifying the original proposal by lowering the elevation of the tunnel and the station significantly, to over 150 feet below the surface, and reducing the number of Manhattan tracks from eight to six (and reducing capacity by 30%) so that the entire station will be under the West 34th Street corridor with entrances at 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues; and

WHEREAS, Because of the new depth of the underground tracks and station, the plan no longer includes a rail spur directly to Penn Station but does provide for the future possibility of an extension to the East Side which may or may not be technologically feasible; and

WHEREAS, The Board believes an East Side connection is an essential feature of any new commuter rail line because such a connection would both reduce the number of commuters who arrive on the West Side having to seek a second mode of transportation to the East Side and discourage commuters with an ultimate East Side destination from using private vehicles; and

WHEREAS, Deep cavern train stations pose great inconvenience and potential security risks for passengers, diminishing the utility of this rail investment in its goal of diverting motorists from using Manhattan's overburdened  streets; and

WHEREAS, A  new 34th Street station, particularly without an East Side connection, would add significantly to the already congested sidewalks and subway stations on the west side and exacerbate the already dangerous conditions which exist for pedestrians in this area; and

WHEREAS, This area will also see significant increases in pedestrian traffic due to the rezoning of the Hudson Yards and may see even more significant increases due to planned rezoning around Moynihan Station; and

WHEREAS, The cumulative impact on pedestrian overcrowding in the area should be a subject of any Environmental Impact Statement looking at these issues; and

WHEREAS, The Board believes that it is the responsibility of all the affected agencies, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority, NYC Department of Transportation, the Port Authority and NJ Transit to work together and develop a plan which addresses the serious overcrowding of the streets in the West 34th Street corridor; and

WHEREAS, While the new proposal includes some very good pedestrian circulation improvements by moving some common subway and NJ Transit entrances off the sidewalk, there is no comprehensive approach to mitigating the increased pedestrian traffic which would result from a new station under West 34th Street; and 

WHEREAS, During the earlier planning phase of the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) study, NJ Transit, working in partnership with the PANYNJ and MTA, outlined a plan that would directly link tracks and platforms at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, with new Hudson River tunnels, and

WHEREAS, A tunnel bringing trains to Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal is much more convenient for both commuters and long distance passengers seeking to connect to other modes of mass transit; and

WHEREAS, Creating a world class regional and intercity rail passenger system that serves both Midtown hubs – Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal – greatly enhances the economic competitiveness of the Manhattan Central Business District, the region's economic engine, and

WHEREAS, Without a connection to Penn Station there is no real rationale for choosing 34th Street as the most appropriate Manhattan location for a new station; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Manhattan Community Board Five urges NJ Transit to consider the impact on pedestrian traffic in the area of the proposed underground station and explore mitigation measures which include utilizing Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal as alternative NJ Transit destinations.

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