First contract awarded for "Mass Transit Tunnel" scheme

By Becca Wilkins14 December 2009

NJ Transit has approved the first major tunnelling contract for the US$ 8.7 billion Mass Transit Tunnel, the largest public transport project in the US aimed at doubling commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York.

The US$ 583 million design-build contract was awarded to the joint venture Barnard of New Jersey and Judlau Contracting Inc. of College Point, New York and will involve construction of a 1.6 km-long tunnel segment in Manhattan.

In a NJ Transit statement, Governor Jon S. Corzine said, "By improving this critical transportation corridor, we are ensuring that our tunnels remain a source of economic strength and mobility for New Jersey and the region.

"This contract will provide an immediate boost to our economy with the Manhattan and Palisades tunnel segments expected to generate approximately 1000 jobs and the Mass Transit Tunnel project as a whole creating many more jobs over the next several years."

The Manhattan tunnel segment is part of an overall project to build two new single-track commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River, doubling capacity of the two-track tunnel that was built 100 years ago, which today operates at its functional capacity.

The other main feature of the project is construction of an expanded New York Penn Station especially designed to handle the customer surges associated with a commuter railroad.

According to the statement construction of the Manhattan tunnel segment, which runs from a shaft at Twelfth Avenue to 28th Street in Manhattan, will begin early next year and continue through late 2013.

The JV will construct a 49 m diameter access shaft on the western edge of Manhattan and then using two tunnel boring machines (TBM's) will create 5029 m of tunnels with an average depth of more than 37 m below street level to the expanded Penn Station under 34th Street, between Eighth and Sixth Avenues.

The twin tunnels will proceed diagonally northeast then eastward and split into four tunnels to maximise train movements in and out of Penn Station as the tunnels approach 34th Street.

NJ Transit expects to receive bids for the Palisades tunnel segment within weeks, followed by the third and final Hudson River segment.

The Mass Transit Tunnel, which is being built by NJ Transit in partnership with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, will double service capacity to 48 trains per hour during peak periods from the current 23 trains.

Twice as many passengers will be able to be accommodated, from 46000 each morning during peak periods to 90000. The project also will also create transfer-free, one-seat rides for travellers on 10 of NJ Transit's 12 rail lines.

The additional commuter rail capacity provided by the new tunnel will remove an estimated 22000 vehicles from regional roads each day and the scheme is expected to generate and sustain 6000 jobs annually during the peak construction period and create 44000 permanent jobs after completion.

The Port Authority is contributing US$ 3 billion toward the Mass Transit Tunnel project, while the Government will contribute US$ 3 billion under its "New Starts" transit funding programme.

Another US$ 2.7 billion will come from a combination of other federal funds, including stimulus and clean air funding, as well as the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's congestion mitigation contribution.

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