Commuter Armageddon Comes to Life in Video by Pro-Tunnel Group

  • RPA says closing Hudson tube for repairs would be catastrophe
  • NYC-area group backs new tunnels pushed by Cuomo, Christie

If you’re one of the 1 million daily commuters between New Jersey and Manhattan, and you’re not thrilled about it now, imagine if one or both of the rail tunnels under the Hudson River is shut for repairs

The Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit group funded by foundations, developers and New York City-area businesses, is helping you visualize it with a three-and-a-half minute animated video called “Tunnel Trouble: Crumbling Infrastructure is Putting the Region at Risk.”

Don’t let the bouncy music and the calm voice of Thomas Wright, RPA’s president, fool you. The video predicts an economic catastrophe in which hundreds of thousands of people are stranded on platforms or caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic, unable to get to work or school. 

The two existing tunnels, which each contain one track, were built 105 years ago, and have about 10 years of life left, according to Amtrak, the national railroad. Aside from time’s ravages, saltwater residue from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is corroding walls and wiring. No repairs can be made unless a tube is shut, and that would back up rail traffic from Washington to Boston, the video says.

“Closing one of the existing tunnels before new ones are built would deliver a terrible blow to the region’s economy, ” Wright says on the video. “Employees will struggle to get to work, and businesses would disappear.”

The RPA says there’s hope because Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York agreed in September to share half the $20 billion cost of new tunnels, asking the U.S. government to finance the rest. Five years ago, Christie killed a similar project that would have cost half as much.

Since 1922, the RPA has been researching and promoting ideas to enhance the New York area’s transportation and land-use planning needs. In the 1920s it steered the George Washington Bridge’s location to upper Manhattan, away from a proposed site at 57th Street that would have led to severe congestion.

As for the lighthearted tone of the video, “We think you can be funny while you’re talking about serious issues,” said RPA spokeswoman Wendy Pollack, who wrote the script.

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