Photo of NJT Dual-Mode Engine
NJT's expensive dual-mode engines need new tunnel capacity to realize potential,

Years ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed a project to add two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, saying New Jersey taxpayers would be stuck with any cost overruns.  Now, a series of train derailments and delays have caused new concern with the existing tunnels, which might have to be shut down for maintenance; a shutdown in peak hours would cripple capacity and cause what some have called "transit Armageddon." A frequent refrain is that "We'd almost have the new tunnels now, if Christie hadn't killed them." Transportation advocates at the time applauded Christie's move, saying the proposed Access to the Region's Core, or ARC project was hopelessly flawed.  They expected a better project to start up, but that hasn't happened yet. Reporting by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media (and published in the Star-Ledger, April 24) suggests that Christie did indeed make the right move in canceling ARC. For one thing, the ARC proposal would not have connected to Penn Station, but instead to a second station, deep beneath 34 Street in Manhattan. Once ARC was done, it would have provided some additional capacity to lessen the impact of a shutdown in the existing century-old tunnels. Former Long Island Rail Road planning director and transportation advocate (and Lackawanna Coalition member) Joseph Clift said the ARC project would have drained capital and made the current situation even worse; "There would be less state of good repair work/funding because of the focus on the new railroad," he said. New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers President Len Resto agreed, saying "The issues at Penn Station, (overhead wire) put in during the 1930s, switches that are old, tunnels in need of rehabilitation; that wouldn't have been paid for by ARC." Martin Robbins, director emeritus of the Voorhees Transportation Institute at Rutgers, said that ARC wouldn't have been in place to solve today's problems: "In 2017, it would not have solved NJ Transit's current problems." But, Robbins said, now the current mess will continue for at least six to seven years.

In anticipation of new tunnels, NJT purchased a fleet of dual-mode locomotives (photo). But these expensive units are only really useful for through service from nonelectrified lines to Penn Station; without enough tunnel capacity, few such trains have been added and the new locomotives mainly are used in place of cheaper diesels and electric engines.