For years, people have been talking about a cross-harbor rail freight tunnel, but it hasn't caught on in the public's imagination. Look, already with you! You're thinking, "Geez, do I really want to read some post about a freight tunnel? I don't ship freight. What do I care?" But you should, so don't close this window! Here's why: less carnage, saving tax money, no more highway hostages. Read on for details.
Ever since the Poughkeepsie Bridge was closed, freight trains going from west of the Hudson (New Jersey, most of upstate, most of the rest of the continent) to east of the Hudson (New York City, Long Island, Westchester, New England) have had to go all the way up to Selkirk, a tiny hamlet south of Albany, to cross the river.
There are two alternatives to the "Selkirk hurdle": put the rail cars on a barge across the harbor, or transfer the goods to trucks. A lot of shippers have been using a third alternative: sending the stuff on trucks the whole way. And of course that means more trucks and bigger trucks.
How do trucks get across the Hudson? On the Verrazano, George Washington and Tappan Zee Bridges, and through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. How do they get from Brooklyn to Queens? On the BQE. How do they get from Queens to the Bronx? Over the Queensboro Bridge and on Manhattan streets.
The proposed Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel would allow trains from west of the Hudson to travel through Jersey City and Brooklyn to points east. They would connect to yards in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island where goods could be loaded onto trucks. The estimate is that a million trucks would be removed from the region's roads. Because the trucks would be doing short distribution runs, they could be smaller. Here are some reasons why that's a good thing for us:
1. Carnage. Smaller trucks are safer in an urban environment. The safest truck, of course, is no truck at all.
2. Road maintenance. The amount of damage that a vehicle inflicts on a road is proportional to the fourth power of that vehicle's weight. Getting this heavy freight off our asphalt roads and onto steel rails would save a lot in maintenance.
3. No more hostages. If you're like me, you've come up with a great argument against a wasteful road project, when some smart-ass busts out, "Well, you may not drive, but your groceries got there by truck! You'll be paying more for cereal if the roads get congested!" They're holding your food hostage to get their road. With this project, you'll be able to smile sweetly and say, "Actually, my groceries come by train, so fuck off!"
So keep this in mind if you care about saving lives by getting big trucks off the road, or about saving money on road maintenance and construction: you like the Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel. Tell your representatives!