Rinaldi Discusses Planned Port Jervis Line Upgrades

John Jordan | May 2018

GOSHEN—Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi spoke before a gathering of the Orange County Citizens Foundation on May 9th at the Harness Racing Museum here and detailed planned improvements to the Port Jervis Line and issues impacting West of Hudson rail service.

Rinaldi updated attendees on the status of the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study, proposed capacity improvements to the Port Jervis line, as well as a study of a train station at Woodbury Common that was floated earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

During her presentation she pointed to two major capital projects that are critical to future Port Jervis line improvements—the addition of three passing sidings as well as the construction of a Mid Point Yard that would be used for overnight storage and servicing as well as fueling. The current Port Jervis line is mostly a one-way railroad with few passing sidings. She said both projects will hopefully be included in the MTA’s next capital program.

According to a Port Jervis Line Service Strategy report issued in January 2018, the costs of the passing sidings would be between $54 million to $72 million, much less expensive than double-tracking (adding 20 miles to the two-track system from Sloatsburg to south of the Moodna Viaduct), which was estimated at $334 million. The passing sidings would be between one to two miles in length each, according to the Metro-North Railroad report. The report recommended adding sidings at a location west of the Tuxedo Station, east of the Moodna Viaduct and west of the Middletown/Town of Wallkill Station.

With those improvements, Metro-North said in the report it could increase weekly train service from 27 to as many as 44 trains per day (a 69% increase) and weekend service by 38% to up to 26 trains per weekend day from its current 16 daily train maximum on weekends.

The Metro-North Port Jervis Line report stated that the construction of a $93-million Mid-Point Yard in Campbell Hall would be preferable than sites studied in Harriman ($92 million) and Salisbury Mills ($102 million). The estimated construction values are based on 2012 construction costs.

MTA Board Member Susan Metzger agreed with Rinaldi that those two projects are critical for Port Jervis line commuters. “In order to get any additional service, we have to have a Mid-Point Yard and passing signings. The existing infrastructure is at capacity. We will not be able to add any of the service everybody would like to see without having that infrastructure in place,” Metzger said.

Rinaldi said at the Citizens Foundation meeting that Metro-North is pursuing a number of Transit-Oriented Development projects and in that vein is in discussions with the developer of a major project adjacent to the Harriman station in regards to access to the Harriman station.

She also noted that Metro-North is currently deciding on preferred alternatives in connection with its West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study. Short-term initiatives as a result of the study could involve bus service from Stewart International Airport to other locations in the area, as well as the potential to have that service connect with the Port Authority Bus Terminal, George Washington Bus Terminal and other locations in New Jersey. Public outreach on the study will take place later this year.

Long-term improvements could include rail service from Stewart to stations on the Port Jervis Line, such as Beacon and Campbell Hall, as well as the preservation of right of way between the airport and Salisbury Mills.

Rinaldi said that a study of a possible station at Woodbury Common is just getting started, but at first blush could work as a public-private partnership.

The ridership on the Port Jervis Line, which had increased substantially from 1984 to 2008, is only recently starting to rebound from the effects of the recession in 2008, Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, she noted. Ridership dropped 34% from the line’s peak in 2008. Hurricane Irene was devastating to the Port Jervis Line causing damage that led to a three-month suspension of service between Harriman and Sloatsburg. According to the Metro North Report in January, ridership on the Port Jervis Line grew 3.6% in 2014 and 2.0% in 2015, but dropped 3.2% in 2016, due primarily to the 10-day shutdown of the line caused by the Sept. 29, 2016 train derailment at the Hoboken Terminal.

With the popularity of Woodbury Common, the opening of the Resorts World Casino in Sullivan County and the future opening of LEGOLAND New York in Goshen, improvements to the Port Jervis line are critical.

“In terms of having rail be a viable option for people getting to any of these destinations, the rail service has to be more nimble, more robust and more able to serve people in the off-peak have a better and more predictable schedule,” Rinaldi said. “So, we are making the kinds of investments that we think long-term will lead to that result where you will have much more reliable and robust service on the Port Jervis Line so that people will vote for the train as opposed to their car to get to their destinations.”

Rinaldi also provided the Citizens Foundation an update on a project started earlier this year at the Port Jervis Station. She noted that work on a temporary ADA ramp at the Port Jervis Station should be finished in June. The project is being undertaken in conjunction with installation of a new signal system on the Port Jervis Line associated with the rollout of Positive Train Control.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth