Overview: The biggest impediment to increasing service and improving reliability on the NEC is infrastructure crossing the Hudson River. The existing Hudson River Tunnels were an engineering marvel when they were completed in 1910. Over a century later, however, the current pair of one-track tunnels is woefully inadequate for current and future service.
Each of the two existing tunnels carry a maximum of twenty four trains per hour. During the morning and evening rush, there is simply no remaining capacity to add more trains. With just one track into New York and one track out, the current tunnels offer no system redundancy. When a train breaks down in one of the tunnels, service grinds nearly to a halt. Due to their age, the existing tunnels also require extensive maintenance and are in need of substantial repair. Without system redundancy, Amtrak is unable to make major investments in the tunnels without a major and ongoing disruption of service for both Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT.
Multiple planning processes, including those by Amtrak and NEC FUTURE, are looking closely at the long-term capacity needs on the NEC with regard to capacity across the Hudson River. Future options may include a new pair of single-track tunnels, as is proposed by Amtrak’s Gateway program. These new tunnels would nearly double the rail capacity between New York and New Jersey, enabling a substantial increase in both intercity and commuter service over many years to come. In addition, new tunnels would provide much needed system redundancy, keeping service moving smoothly even if an existing tunnel is taken out of service for regular maintenance or because of an unexpected service disruption.
A Vintage Post Card of the Hudson River Tunnels.