Date: Aug 02, 2001
Press Release Number: 107-2001
The Port Authority Board of Commissioners has agreed to provide $50 million – $25 million each to the states of New York and New Jersey – to improve the region’s rail freight capacity, Port Authority Executive Director Neil D. Levin announced today.
New York Governor George E. Pataki said, “This smart investment will not only improve rail service, which is a critical part of our effort to create new jobs for New Yorkers, but will also help clean up the air we breathe by getting trucks off the road.”
New Jersey Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco said, “This initiative will support ongoing efforts to modernize and expand our freight transportation system to handle the demands of the future. With almost a half million New Jersey residents employed by the freight rail industry, this investment will ensure continued economic growth while improving the quality of life for all New Jerseyans.”
New York State Transportation Commissioner Joseph H. Boardman said, “Under Governor Pataki’s leadership, a strong DOT-Port Authority partnership has been forged as the two agencies continue working together to identify and address the clearance, capacity and intermodal improvements needed to continue to enhance the region’s competitive position within the global economy.
“The funds provided by the Port Authority, combined with the governor’s rail-freight initiatives, will provide improved shipping options for local businesses and help divert truck traffic from area roadways,” Commissioner Boardman added.
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein said, “Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco’s strong leadership on transportation issues enables us to work with the Port Authority to better the region’s freight rail system and improve our access to the world marketplace. Sound investments in the freight rail system help secure the economic future and quality of life of the entire State of New Jersey.”
Port Authority Executive Director Levin said, “Our region’s port facilities are handling record volumes of international cargo, and we need more rail capacity to get this cargo to its final destination. The surge in cargo is driven by our healthy regional economy’s growing demand for goods. And much more cargo is on the way, as international trade continues to expand in the coming decades.
“To get ready to absorb this increased flow of cargo in the New York-New Jersey area, we need to increase our region’s ability to handle rail freight,” Mr. Levin added. “More rail freight infrastructure – combined with deeper shipping channels and expanded terminal capacity – will allow us to handle this increased economic activity, without adding excessive truck activity to our already congested highways.”
The $50 million included in the new rail freight initiative is in addition to the Port Authority’s existing plans to spend approximately $193 million on regional rail improvements at or near its marine terminals, included in the agency’s current five-year capital program.
The projects to be funded will be determined in consultation with the two states. Consideration will be given to projects that were identified as strategically critical at a regional summit of government agencies including the Port Authority, the City of New York, the states of New Jersey and New York, and railroads including CSX, Norfolk Southern, the Canadian Pacific, and the New York and Atlantic Railroads.
The projects would increase capacity on the bistate rail network and relieve bottlenecks restricting access to rail-car float services and intermodal facilities on both sides of the Hudson. Without first addressing these key barriers, it will be difficult to significantly increase rail freight east of the Hudson, whether the cargo crosses on a rail-car float system, through a tunnel, or other clearance-restricted rail routes.
While both CSX and Norfolk Southern have undertaken considerable capital investment to improve and rationalize the old Conrail network, certain projects remain outside the scope of their efforts. Many of these are near-term, small-scale yard and track improvements, ranging from track work in the Bronx to similar line and capacity enhancements in New Jersey.
Despite a sluggish national and international economy, general cargo volumes in the Port of New York and New Jersey rose by more than 13 percent in the first quarter of 2001, driven in part by an increase in trade with Asia. During the first three months of this year, the value of all cargo that flowed through the port exceeded $22 billion, a 13-percent increase over 2000 activity.
Richard M. Larrabee, Director of Port Commerce for the Port Authority, said, “The continuing strong performance of the port over the past several quarters is an indication that we need to continue work on our ambitious $1.8 billion, five-year redevelopment program. Rail freight improvements will be critical to the successful implementation of this plan.”