Date: Nov 13, 2008
Press Release Number: 131-2008
Port Authority to Resume Environmental Impact Statement To Address Regional Freight Challenges
With freight movements around the New York-New Jersey region expected to rise by 70 percent in the next 20 years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey convened a meeting today with key government and transportation leaders to develop solutions to the issue of how to continue to move billions of dollars in freight - including food, furniture, clothing and other household items - throughout an already congested bistate region.
At the meeting, Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward discussed long- and short-term strategies to address the freight movement issue in the region where 95 percent of goods are now moved by truck, resulting in severe congestion on bridges and highways, and in air quality issues for those who live and work in the region. The meeting included New York State Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn, New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler.
As part of a long-term initiative, Mr. Ward announced that the Port Authority will begin an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project, which was initially identified as a major regional issue 15 years ago. Mr. Ward outlined three goals of the EIS, which will be completed by the end of 2010: to increase the region's economic competitiveness, decrease traffic congestion, and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
As one of the first steps toward addressing the current challenges with cross harbor freight movement, the Port Authority announced the acquisition and planned rehabilitation of the Jersey City, N.J.-based New York New Jersey Rail Corporation, which operates a rail float barge facility that transports cargo-filled rail cars between the two states. As part of the purchase, the agency assumed the existing lease for approximately 27 acres of land at Greenville Yard in Jersey City in connection with the rail float barge operation. The total acquisition cost is estimated at $16 million.
The rail freight barge allows rail cars to be put directly on a barge and floated across the harbor, docking at terminals at either 51st or 65th streets in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where connections are made with businesses either locally in Brooklyn or further east on Long Island. Rail cars also are transported back across the harbor to connect to the national rail freight network via the Greenville Yard in Jersey City. Currently, a majority of the cargo transported between the two states is moved by truck.
The only other rail link across the Hudson River is operated by CSX and located 100 miles to the north near Albany. This circuitous routing adds over 200 miles for rail freight goods traveling to and from the south and west. This rehabilitated rail float operation will provide a convenient short cut.
In June 2007, the Port Authority and the City of New York took another important step in improving bistate freight movement when the $75 million Staten Island Rail Link was completed. Last week, the city and the Port Authority announced that 45,000 containers were moved by rail during the first year of operation, removing nearly 100,000 trucks from local bridges and highways. The Port Authority also is expanding rail capacity at its port terminals in New Jersey, which have handled nearly 3 million cargo containers and removed more than 5 million trucks from the road since 1991.
"Our efforts to move freight by barge and rail in this extremely congested urban region is just common sense," Mr. Ward said. "It removes trucks from the bridges, tunnels and highways, and allows for a more efficient flow of goods between the two states. This is the type of unique opportunity we must continue to explore to address the region's freight movement challenges."
The rail freight barge facility acquisition was made possible by $100 million in existing federal funding (obtained through Congressman Jerrold Nadler in 2005) to complete the EIS, acquire key freight assets and perform necessary infrastructure improvements in the existing rail network.
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement, conducted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, was released in 2005, when work on the project was suspended. The Draft EIS recommended a cross-harbor rail freight tunnel between Brooklyn and Jersey City, linking the region east of the Hudson River to the national rail network, as the preferred alternative to address the cross harbor freight movement challenge.
A process of transferring the sponsorship of the EIS to the Port Authority was finalized in August 2008. The Port Authority is now responsible for conducting the necessary supplemental EIS and moving the process forward. The current plan is to complete the EIS by late 2010, in time for the reauthorization of the next major federal transportation bill.
"Freight movement is a critical issue and one that's taken a back seat to other, more high-profile projects for too long," Mr. Ward said. "I'd like to thank Congressman Nadler for his perseverance in keeping this issue on the front burner to make sure we can continue to facilitate the efficient movement of goods throughout the region."
"I am thrilled that this essential project is moving forward," Rep. Jerrold Nadler said. "This is not simply an important transportation proposal but would be a huge boon to our region's economy, to our workforce, to our environment, and to our connection to the rest of the world. I want to thank the Port Authority, the City of New York, and the many advocates on environmental and transportation issues for all of their work on behalf of this initiative. I believe that, with the impressive partnership assembled today, we are indeed moving closer to realizing the crucial goal of constructing a Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel."
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Steve Coleman or Candace McAdams, 212 435-7777