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More Tunnels Would Greatly Ease Service Problems At Penn Station, Experts Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A sobering thought for commuters inconvenienced by the derailment -- experts said it would have been a relatively minor event if new tunnels had been built under the Hudson.

The utter chaos at Penn Station reduced service for the 600,000 people who normally commute from the busiest transit hub in the nation.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, it could have been avoided -- a new tunnel under the Hudson would have made all the difference in the world.

"Even if Monday's incident had happened, eight of the nine tracks that were closed would have been used, would have been connected to the new tunnel," Interim Executive Director, Jon Porcari, Gateway Program Development Corp, explained.

It's Porcari's job to get two new tunnels -- known as the Gateway Project -- built as soon as possible.

It's not lost on some that the project might have been well along if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had not made the decision nearly 7 years ago to kill a tunnel project, then known as 'arc.'

"It would have been a minor blip as opposed to a major nightmare for commuters," Porcari said.

Porcari said that he's ready to get started as soon as the federal funding comes through, but even before Gateway construction starts there has been a proposal to change it.

"The risk of derailment is higher than it needs to be based on how Penn Station is presently configured," Jim Venturi, Rethink Studios said.

Venturi's group rethinks current problems and developed animation to show what he said is one of the biggest problems at Penn Station -- choke points -- tracks that cross so trains often have to stop or slow down to let other trains pass.

He said redesigning the Gateway project so that doesn't happen will make things safer and speed up train travel.

"If they're not crossing each other they can operate at normal speeds," he explained.

He said the original Gateway proposal was designed for Amtrak, which accounts for just 5 percent of Penn Station traffic. A redesign would help everyone in the region. He added that crossed tracks should be eliminated, with half of the tracks going in one direction, and the other half cutting entirely through the station.

Porcari is not opposed to that, but said tunnels should be built first.

"I applaud them for their vision. We should have a larger vision for the future of New York, but let's focus on the here and now which is building a second bridge, and a second set of tunnels," he said.

Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foy said the idea is interesting for the future phases of the Gateway.

A spokesman for Governor Christie defended the cancellation of Arc claiming it would have cost New Jersey taxpayers billions and would not have provided transportation connections to other destinations.




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