- Sen. Angus King (I-ME)
- Tyler Duvall, McKinsey & Company
- E. Donald Elliott, Yale Law School
- George Frampton, Jr., Covington & Burling
- Travers Garvin, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
- Philip K. Howard, Common Good
- Nick A. Malyshev, OECD
- Diana Mendes, AECOM
- Karen Rae, New York State Department of Transportation
- Lynn Scarlett, The Nature Conservancy
- Robert D. Yaro, Regional Plan Association
On Wednesday, the New York City Council voted to grant Madison Square Garden a limited 10-year permit to remain in its current location above Penn Station. This historic decision paves the way for New York to find a new home for the Garden in Manhattan and to remake Penn Station into a world-class transit hub. As Council Speaker Christine Quinn noted, New York should have a 21st century train station worthy of this great city, and significantly improving Penn Station while Madison Square Garden sits atop it has proven to be an intractable problem.
The New York metropolitan region needs a Penn Station that can accommodate our growing rail traffic and sustain Midtown's economic vitality. And the region will benefit from the development of a top-tier sports and entertainment arena in Manhattan. Some half a million commuters and visitors pass through Penn Station every weekday. They face severe overcrowding, grim corridors and confusing, shabby public areas. New York has endured this depressing state of affairs for half a century. With last week's vote, we can begin envisioning the day when their commutes no longer start or end in misery, when the nation's busiest transit hub also is a welcoming civic space, and when the station and the arena bring new life to the surrounding community.
The Alliance for a New Penn Station, a consortium of civic groups, businesses and individuals founded by Regional Plan Association and Municipal Art Society, looks forward to supporting the process of relocating Madison Square Garden, rebuilding Penn Station and revitalizing west Midtown.
The first of Amtrak's new fleet of locomotives made its Northeast Corridor debut earlier this summer. The "Cities Sprinters," electric locomotives manufactured in the U.S. by Siemens, are currently undergoing field testing to ensure that they are in safe, working order before their official entry into revenue service this fall. The tests are being conducted in Pueblo, Colorado and in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's purchase of these 70 new locomotives using a $563 million loan from the U.S. DOT's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program - the largest RRIF loan ever awarded - is a big step in Amtrak's comprehensive effort to modernize their fleet and improve the quality of their rail services. The Cities Sprinters will replace older locomotives that have been in service for over 25 years and logged, on average, more than four million miles. They will be used to pull Northeast Regional and Keystone Corridor trains.
The Cities Sprinters are easier to maintain, more energy efficient, and more reliable than the engines in use today. The new locomotives can reach speeds of up to 125 mph while pulling 18 coach cars. The first of these locomotives is expected to enter revenue service in the Northeast this fall and the remaining units will enter revenue service two per month through 2016.
While the House and Senate's Fiscal Year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bills differ in important ways (in fact, 10 billion ways), both are a far cry from the budget President Obama proposed back in April. The President's budget requested Congress provide the Federal Railroad Administration with nearly $12 billion to invest in passenger rail systems in fiscal year 2014. This would have been more than ten times the House's proposed funding levels and six times what the Senate proposed.
The President also requested $6.6 billion for a Rail Service Improvement Program that would "develop new key passenger rail corridors, substantially improve existing corridors [and] the Nation's freight network by adding capacity and removing bottlenecks." The House and Senate both proposed virtually nothing for the existing federal high-speed rail program or a new or modified program similar to what the President proposed.
The Senate is planning on taking up their spending bill next week. While the Senate's bill still leaves a lot to be desired, it is far more acceptable than the House bill. Joe Boardman, Amtrak's President and CEO has said that the Senate bill is "realistic" and "workable," but also says that "even at this funding level, there is a significant amount of critical backlog infrastructure work that will not get done. In order for the nation's intercity passenger rail system to reach its full potential, Amtrak will need higher and sustained levels of federal capital funding."
Mr. Boardman said funding levels in the House bill put "every one of our services at risk," including the Northeast Corridor, which he called "bad for revenue, bad for the economy."
National Association of Railroad Passengers campaign:
Get Your Mayor to Tell Washington: We Need More Trains!