Last night, a meeting of a local transportation committee kind of made the past 15 months slip away. The topic was the same as my very first story for Chelsea Now: the ARC Tunnel project, a plan by New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority to double the number of passengers crossing the river. Then as now, there was a New Jersey Transit rep with Power Point slides, ready to explain how the trains would only benefit New York and Chelsea. Then as now, there sat the opposition, renegade transit planners and passenger organizations with their own quixotic-seeming quest to remake the project.
In the interim, NJT had revised its plans significantly, but not to respond to the critics. Instead, the plan had diverged even further from its original concepts. There went those critics’ hopes to integrate the tunnel station with a regional rail system, as in Paris or Philadelphia.
My full article about the (bloody long and contentious) meeting will be in the paper, but I wanted to note some language I might never have noticed last February. The fellow from NJT rattled off a series of “impacts” now avoided by the new plan, which envisions a tunnel and station 155 feet underground that doesn’t try to link with Penn Station. “We would have had to get too close to the bottom of the buildings near the station. Both existing buildings and for future development,” he said. “The city, City Planning, asked us not to do that. So we found a better way.”
Anyone who follows New York’s development dance might have had their ears prick at that last sentence, and wondered when those conversations took place. And who it was that really asked. Given subsequent changes, that may make a difference in whether the Quixotes can slay their dragon.