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NJT plan to restore line to Sussex could help Amtrak PA service?

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NJT plan to restore line to Sussex could help Amtrak PA service?
Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, August 12, 2021 8:25 AM
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, August 12, 2021 3:57 PM

The added impetus of Amtrak would definately help in getting the line reactivated.  NJ Transit's enthusiasm has been a bit lackluster for the past ten years.  

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 14, 2021 7:55 AM

Flintlock76
NJ Transit's enthusiasm has been a bit lackluster for the past ten years.

In fairness, they have had other concerns, and there is a comparatively large 'build it and they will come' factor involving service all the way 'to' Pennsylvania -- see the bus schedules I posted earlier to assess the current 'ridership demographics'

One of the articles on proposed extension of Amtrak service to ABE, only a few miles of which would go into Pennsylvania, gave the cost of the revised 'Queen of the Valley' routing as something like 2/3s of a billion, assuming concerns over freight interference or congestion expressed by NS in 2016 could be addressed.  The prospective pool of commuters that go from the area to New York (via bus on 78) is about 6000, many of whom would not pay the prospective Amtrak cost (even years ago, about 33% over the bus) for the added amenities a train might provide.

Incidentally I thought it was more sensible to renovate the portion of the existing NJT line from High Bridge to Phillipsburg (the Raritan line; some material still shows NJT station information in that section) and at the start arrange trackage rights across the bridge across the river to Easton and then to wherever expedient "regional transfer" points in the ABE area their public supports.  The Amtrak trains would replace a corresponding number of existing Raritan Line runs, probably some or all of the 'extended' ones to High Bridge (which I saw operating with 5400/5500 series Comet cars and a 6600-series cab car, not the bilevels) probably operating with the substituted trains' existing ALP45DPs to be Midtown Direct capable.  

We could probably have some Klepperesque fun deciding where 'further east or north' into New York or Connecticut a cab-car-equipped dual-mode consist for either the service to Scranton or to ABE might be run, to eliminate NYP or Sunnyside dwell for 'midtown direct' access.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Saturday, August 14, 2021 2:47 PM

Overmod
Incidentally I thought it was more sensible to renovate the portion of the existing NJT line from High Bridge to Phillipsburg

The problem is that the track west of High Bridge isn't just sitting there idle, part of it is burried under thousands of tons of dirt and stone. When I-78 was being completed, it was decided not to provide a tunnel for the unused line, so the track was ripped up and the right of way buried under fill.

"Service beyond High Bridge to Phillipsburg Union Station in Phillipsburg was discontinued in December 1983 because of low ridership.[11] Then, in November 1989, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJ DOT) severed the rail line between Alpha and Phillipsburg during construction of I-78. This was done in order to avoid having to build an overpass over the out-of-service trackage."

New Jersey Transit could always tunnel through the fill, but we're talking big bucks, on top of the cost of rebuilding the line and NJT may well feel it needs to spend it elsewhere. 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 14, 2021 3:23 PM

Route crosses 78 twice in that distance, so it's at least plausible there are two separate fills involved.

I'd wonder if box jacking would offer a solution.

Are there height restrictions west of Raritan Yard that preclude operating bilevel equipment?  That might influence any necessary tunnel dimensions.  Even if more of the line were to be electrified, the use of the dual-modes would allow catenary to be omitted from the tunnels or approaches, and the line will never need freight clearances.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Sunday, August 15, 2021 2:13 AM

Overmod
 Even if more of the line were to be electrified,

Huh? None of the Raritan Valley Line is electrified, it's all diesel territory from Penn Station-Newark west. Yes, the CNJ was planning to electrify its suburban service like parent Reading, but I expect that it would have ended either at the end of the commuter district at Raritan or at Bound Brook, the junction with Reading's line from Philadelphia (which may well have been electrified as an extension of the Philly area electrification to allow MU's to run from Jersey City to Reading Terminal. Imagine an electric Crusader! (I see something like a stainless steel (Budd was on line at Red Lion PA) Electroliner or a Burlington Zephyr with pantographs))

A more likely route would be the old PRR to Hunter Tower, then the old Lehigh Valley to Phillipsburg - ABE. BUT this is the prime route for NS freight traffic in and out of the New York metropolitan area

"The line hosts approximately twenty-five trains per day, with traffic peaking at the end of the week. East of the junction with the Reading Line in Allentown, Pennsylvania and in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the line serves as Norfolk Southern's main corridor in and out of the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the New York Metro Area at large, as Norfolk Southern doesn't currently use the eastern half of its Southern Tier Line, which follows the Delaware River north to Binghamton, New York. The line is part of Norfolk Southern's Harrisburg Division and it is part Norfolk Southern's Crescent Corridor, a railroad corridor. It passes through the approximately 5,000 foot Pattenburg Tunnel in West Portal, New Jersey along its route. Most of the traffic along the line consists of intermodal and general merchandise trains going to yards such as Oak Island Yard in Newark, New Jersey and Croxton Yard in Jersey City, New Jersey."

I'm not sure if NS would be happy sharing its track with NJT and/or The Pointless Arrow. Even if they go along with the deal, you might need to add a second track and I'm not sure if the right of way can accomodate that. Want to widen it? In the most densely populated state in the nation? Yeah, and spend the next fifty years fighting the NIMBY's and spending a fortune to buy the land (even under emminent domain) if you finally win. (It might be cheaper to dig that tunnel, after all. But you'll still be fighting the NIMBY's...)

So I just don't see ABE to NYC as a realistic possibility,

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, August 15, 2021 4:48 AM

The 'electrification' would involve a demonstration project in 'zero carbon' showing progressive but initially islanded catenary implementation.  The Raritan line is one of the obvious candidates as all its locomotives are ALP45DPs already.

That also facilitates, at least in theory, one of the principles inherent in expanded dual-mode-lite: that where extraordinary expense or inconvenience would be involved in providing, installing, or maintaining catenary, it could be omitted and onboard power used to 'cross the gaps'.  That might apply to low overhead bridges or areas with too many trees just as it would to tunnels or difficult-access regions.

I would have liked to see the Reading electrify east of West Trenton via the Bound Brook Route, but the whole economics of the New York Extension were always a bit dubious (I believe they were a factor in the 1895 bankruptcy of the B&O and subsequent PRR hegemony) and I don't think the capital allocation (or even access to capital sources) was ever really there for the Reading, even on the same terms with the RFC that PRR was able to secure.

I have not seen the actual ICC route records for the 'second Ramsey survey' high-speed route from Pittsburgh across northern Pennsylvania, filed in the very late '20s or 1930, but that route of necessity would have been electrified, and any connection east of there would likely be electrified as well.  Especially in such a world, I do not know if there would be competitive value 'enough' in a full electrification of the Reading/CNJ main (presumably to the CNJ terminal at what is now Liberty State Park although it is interesting to speculate on how the 'Hylan's Hole' Narrows tunnel (which if built at putative generous 'freight clearances' would have had at least as much room for 11kV cat as the PRR tunnels did) might have been used or indeed SIRT converted to have catenary.  If a major premise were to extend MU service all the way from Philadelphia to the New York terminal area in "competition" with MP54s, facilitating development in the associated areas of New Jersey... (yes, I'm aware of the power differences and operational restrictions)... coordinated electrification might have made sense, in a eorkd where the New Era had not been arrested by the Depression. 

On the other hand, some fascinating 'logical extension' of early Silverliner development would have been possible, including actual high-speed use of the powered Pioneer truck design.  Personally I think the use of RDCs instead was a far more sensible alternative, and I am a bit surprised that RDG didn't have at least a 'research' program to use the hot-rod version of RDC represented by the Roger Williams for the Crusader/Wall Street trains.  Just think if they had made them with nose styling like the ticket windows in Reading Terminal!

All the practical recent discussions I've read about passenger service to ABE have involved the Queen of the Valley route, presumably via Hunter Tower.  This was the thing NS unambiguously nixed in 2016... followed by the Amtrak autumn express using this route later the same year.  That a couple of passenger trains could be shoehorned into the freight traffic is discussable, but i think any sort of bus-competitive service frequency would be difficult at best with any equipment type 'suitable to produce expected ridership'.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, August 15, 2021 5:30 AM

Unless capacity-expansion projects were funded.

What about the Lehigh Valley route?

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, August 15, 2021 7:25 AM

It is difficult to gauge the actual current interest in the functional service from ABE to 'points east'.  I think there is a detailed study of costs using the 'Bound Brook Route' east of the Easton bridge, but I do not have a reference.  The 2010 study 

http://media.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news_impact/other/final-railroad-study.pdf

done in 2010 appears to have presumed a connection to NJT in Phillipsburg and NJT access to NYC via the expanded capacity of a then-completed ARC tunnel... if I read it correctly, its $650-750M cost does not include any part of reopening track between High Bridge and Phillipsburg.  And it represented at best 22% farebox recovery, a number that would likely apply to an ex-LV route's service.

The 'new' mayors' initiative seems to be based on presumed changes in travel patterns and resident lifestyle since 2016.  A nonrigorous press inquiry at that time of the likeliest regular users of the train service -- express-bus riders -- indicated as I noted previously that many of them considered even 'minimum' prospective rail fare to be excessive for what they would get.

Note in the map of the 2010 study the little arrow north which is labeled 'Scranton' -- ironically provided due to the presumed harder-to-overcome severing of the Cutoff route NJT service.

Personally, I think most if not all the anticipated ABE demand can be handled with the same type of bus service I proposed for Green Bay-Milwaukee to connect with Amtrak into Chicago.  In this case, the service might be facilitated with regional concentration to key stops (e.g. the point(s) in Bethlehem identified in the survey, or the Easton 'intermodal center', and some bus service run to connect to NJT either in High Bridge or Raritan itself, which would involve fewer vehicles and quicker turn than a full one-seat express-bus ride.

I don't really see an Amtrak service being able to run 'new' on the ex-LV at the required frequency to match what buses could accomplish, with the expected ridership across all the scheduled trains to give reasonable recovery.  I would build out the Stroudsburg, and then the 'Amtrak to Scranton' service first, as the proven demand within New Jersey already appears to exist and the demographic patterns are there to sustain ridership.  Then see from the lessons of that effort what approaches might be taken to get the right sort of capex and then service net of congestion between ABE and regions of demand.  (Note what would be involved in service to the Bridgewater tech area mentioned in the 2010 study... which is now served directly via a stop on the Raritan Valley line.

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, August 15, 2021 10:03 PM

Did NJT run on their own line all the way to Phillipsburg up unto the end of service in the 1980s, or did they run over the last few miles on the ex-LV ?

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 16, 2021 7:32 AM

MidlandMike
Did NJT run on their own line all the way to Phillipsburg up unto the end of service in the 1980s, or did they run over the last few miles on the ex-LV ?

My understanding is that the Raritan line is ex-CNJ, all the way to their bridge at Easton which was nowhere near as imposing as LV's.

I don't think the "Lehigh line" had its current importance in 1983, or even at the time 78 was constructed across the ROW; the Chase wreck was not until 1987 and the progressive abolition of heavy high-speed freight over the ex-PRR not until some time later.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, August 16, 2021 10:40 AM

I was going through the archives here at the "Fortress Flintlock" last night and found this, which I'm going to post for everyone's enjoyment.  It concerns the lack of progress by NJ Transit along the old Lackawanna Cut-Off.  

From a January 2013 "Railpace" magazine editorial by editor Tom Nemeth, where he speaks of NJT managment incompetence.  Remember, this is post "Superstorm Sandy" and that mess and other messes. I won't go into those parts.  I quote:

"The Andover Extension to Nowhere.  Spend millions of dollars and multiple years to reconstruct a (still uncompleted) seven mile line with only one station, not near any highway (I-80 or US-206), in a low-density rural area on a back road, with a park-and-ride lot for 65 cars.  This would become a real "white elephant" to help "prove" the case that NJT needn't extend farther to the Delaware Water Gap (and connect to Pennsylvania trackage) where the real market for ridership exists.  NJT's attitude has long been "Those people" in Pennsylvania moved out of New Jersey to escape high taxes; let them rot on Route 80."  That's great regional transit planning."  

Oh well. 

Things must be getting a lot better since then, Tom hasn't had any NJ Transit rants in a long time.  

PS:  Those rants were FUN!

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 16, 2021 11:22 AM

NJT has been aware since its formal founding where the real market for revived service on the Cutoff is.  The construction increments (including the current little phase involving Roseville Tunnel) do include tapping the development, both achieved and potential, within 'kiss 'n ride' style range.  But all you have to do is look at where Martz stages the buses... and how they've been introducing runs as the 'reopening' proceeds... to see where the demand hub for the relatively high-speed trains -- including some with limited and perhaps even no intermediate stops -- would be.

The intermediate New Jersey concern as I understood it was a little different, much like Christie's stated reason for pulling out of the ARC Tunnel boondoggle.  If NJT pays all the revocation cost and the service runs with well under full farebox recovery, then New Jersey would indeed be left holding the bag for making Pennsylvania a more attractive option for living, and New York the place getting the income taxes from the employment.

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