Cheaper Than ARC, and Better Too

by Reihan Salam

New York city officials are proposing a $5.3 billion extension of the No. 7 subway line to New Jersey as a (relatively) low-cost replacement for the misbegotten ARC tunnel. Yonah Freemark fills us in:

Faced with the decision last month by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to eliminate state funding for the ARC tunnel — effectively ending the project — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg silently instructed municipal staff to begin studying the possibility of stretching the city’s subway system into the state across the Hudson River. Now preliminary news on the proposal has surfaced. A roughly four-mile extension of the 7 Subway Train from the West Side of Manhattan to Secaucus Junction would cost $5.3 billion and provide the extra trans-Hudson rail link the New York region has been demanding for years.

Though this one provide a one-seat ride for many of New Jersey’s affluent commuters, the subway extension approach has other benefits:


While the required transfer at Secaucus would have its major downfalls, the ability to jump onto the subway would have some huge advantages, namely allowing New Jerseyans to travel directly to Grand Central Terminal, the East Midtown business district, and the rapidly expanding Long Island City in Queens. Access at Secaucus is ideal because the station already serves as the hub for all of the agency’s Manhattan and Hoboken-bound commuter trains. In addition, the existing Manhattan stations that would be used by 7 Train commuters are far closer to the surface than ARC’s deep-cavern Penn Station terminus would have been, and connections to other subway lines throughout the city would be more convenient.

The project is projected to cost roughly half as much as the ARC tunnel because it would require no significant new tunneling under Manhattan and would not need a major interlocking to connect with the existing rail system. 

Because access to the East Side is so vital, my impression is that a No. 7 extension would be a better deal for commuters on all fronts. Imagine that: killing a wasteful boondoggle has yielded a better, smarter proposal. Any No. 7 extension is a long way off, and we still have to think hard about where the money will come from. But this is encouraging news.