ARC Enters Eminent Domain Phase

Regional Plan Association executive director Tom Wright testified at hearing on the Access to the Region's Core project and use of eminent domain, expressing support for the project. Once opened, ARC will double commuter rail capacity into the region, provide better access to higher paying jobs and be an economic boon to the region improving New York businesses access to the New Jersey labor pool.

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Statement for the ARC Railroad Passenger Station

Eminent Domain Procedure Law Hearing
by Thomas K. Wright, Executive Director, RPA
July 7, 2010
Pennsylvania Hotel, 401 7th Ave., New York, NY

My name is Tom Wright, and I'm Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association, a private, nonprofit research and planning organization serving the greater New York metropolitan region.

RPA is a strong supporter of Access to the Region's Core, a project that will double commuter rail access to Midtown. NJ TRANSIT ridership has quadrupled in the last 25 years to a remarkable 46 million passenger trips in 2008. The existing rail tunnels - one track in and one track out - are at capacity, and delays are common, as I know all too well as a daily commuter to Princeton. Rail ridership is forecast to double again over the next 20 years. New capacity is urgently needed.

ARC will be a terrific economic boon to the region. It will provide better access to high-paying Manhattan jobs to New Jersey residents, and improve New York businesses access to the New Jersey labor pool. In fact, it is difficult to see how the region can grow without the improvement in access that ARC represents.

Precisely 100 years have passed since the first tunnels to Penn Station were built, and of course, technology has improved significantly since then. Instead of ripping open the street, digging a large trench and laying down tracks - the exceptionally disruptive process used by Alexander Cassatt's team - ARC will utilize state-of-the-art tunneling machines that dig through the earth deep underground with very limited disruptions at the surface. Nevertheless, entrances to the station, new ventilation shafts and other key infrastructure must be sited, and select properties will have to be acquired or taken by eminent domain.

RPA is sensitive to the fact that certain New York and New Jersey residents and business owners are being forced to sell their properties, but we also believe there is not a more clear-cut instance of a project with tremendous public benefits that will improve the region for decades to come. ARC is a project of regional significance, in which the use of eminent domain is entirely appropriate.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify at this public hearing.

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