The East End Concourse at Penn Station in New York and the Newark Airport Station reflect New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) concern with bolstering its role as a major provider of transportation to residents of New York and New Jersey alike. Both projects open up access to other transportation options, and allow for increased ridership and decreased headways.
Penn Station’s East End Concourse is an ambitious $105 million undertaking to create a 50,000 square foot presence for NJT within the greater complex. The station within a station will be located at 7th Avenue and 31st Street and serve tracks one through six.
The project was pursued with three main goals. The first is the creation of a distinct area within Penn Station for information, ticket purchases and using NJT trains to allow the system to brand itself. When the East End Concourse opens, NJT will have an identity within the complex where it can concentrate and serve passengers, says Saundra Lautenberg, program manager of engineering and construction for NJT.
More importantly, a greater number of passengers will be able to cross-pollinate both NJT and New York City. The design for the East End Concourse doubles the vertical circulation available to NJT trains. The number of trains able to serve Penn Station will climb from 17 per hour to 25 per hour.
“It’s not enough to increase the number of trains and tracks, you have to be able to clear the platforms, and that’s where the East End Concourse comes in,” Lautenberg says.
The last goal of the construction at Penn Station is to invigorate and simplify the inter- and intra-system connections available to NJT passengers. At Penn Station, NJT customers can transfer to Amtrak, Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and New York City Transit subways. The increased movement of riders to Penn Station works in conjunction with other improvements in the NJT rail system, including the Secaucus Transfer and Montclair Connection (see January 2001 METRO).
Devil is in the details
Progressing from conception to construction required a five-year negotiation with Vornado 2 Penn Plaza LLC, the property owner, regarding the construction of a separate entrance to the East End Concourse. NJT also worked out a 99-year lease from Amtrak for $10.5 million.
Because of existing structural parameters, the East End Concourse will feature a split-level design to accommodate low ceilings. Foot traffic will be channeled through a central spine, giving the illusion of height. Passengers will access tracks one through five from the central spine; an apron half a flight of stairs below the main level will reach track six.
Space constraints also dictate the absence of a large departure/arrival sign. That will be replaced by a number of smaller monitors, dispersed throughout the concourse to prevent clustering.
Amenities included in the design are a 250-person waiting room, retail shops, transit security stations, information displays and ticket purchasing facilities. There are also two arts in transit projects underway, including marble etchings from Larry Kirkland that will be visible from the tracks. Arts manufacture is 75% complete.
The construction of the East End Concourse is about 70% complete with the recent completion of all steelwork, a task Lautenberg characterizes as monumental. The majority of the concrete slab is poured and elevators and escalators are either completed or under active construction.
“It’s very exciting to see something that was just lines on a paper grow up into something three dimensional,” Lautenberg says.
Work began with more than a dozen preparatory contracts, out of a total of more than 30. Amtrak is responsible for ventilation, smoke evacuation and power supply improvements.
The East End Concourse is carved out of an old taxiway within the 1964 structure. Excavation revealed a baggage ramp that was used as a staging area. Asbestos removal alone was included in two contracts; the ceilings under 2 Penn Plaza were heavily fortified with the material to act as fireproofing. The project also required the construction of a deck to protect passengers and trains using the tracks below the new concourse.
“Figuring out how to build inside a building underground and not impact railroad operations or passengers, that was … and has been the challenge,” Lautenberg says.
In addition to the demands of working around a busy rail line, NJT had to identify and relocate or remove all utilities in the area. The water meter room required special consideration because its substation couldn’t be decommissioned in time.
The confines of the space also necessitate the use of swing space and temporary relocation of certain functions. Escalator repair was housed in the baggage locker area and the construction of elevator shafts required additional shuffling of people and property.
The project also demanded the cooperation of outside parties. Vornado is constructing a glass and aluminum entrance to the East End Concourse that will mesh with a new two-story structure going up at 2 Penn Plaza. Lautenberg says that a relationship with the private developer allows NJT to have higher end finishes than the system would ordinarily be able to afford. Vornado will maintain the entrance and may adjust it, barring any negative impacts on rail operations.
NJT acquired or relocated retail space in what was to become the East End Concourse. It also received permission from the city of New York to permanently park a crane on the street outside the station. The crane drops construction materials through two hatches, one of which will eventually be re-purposed as a fresh air intake duct. All other construction materials are brought in by rail.
Work in the area of the tracks is restricted to midnight till 5 a.m. The hour from midnight till 1 a.m. is set aside for securing the track for construction and the hour from 4 a.m. till 5 a.m. is devoted to readying the track for service, whittling down actual construction time to three hours per day.
The principal challenge in such a complex project is early preparation, Lautenberg says. She says that the planning and anticipation of problems make the construction of the East End Concourse as smooth as possible.
Creating intermodal access
The construction of a NJT station at Newark (N.J.) International Airport (NIA) reflects the mounting congestion the airport suffers.
Situated in downtown Newark, NIA has restricted parking and is moving employee parking off-site. Connecting the airport’s monorail to the Northeast Corridor offers a new transportation alternative for travelers and mitigates the ever-increasing automotive traffic at the terminals.
Improving access to NIA also serves the greater goal of developing the airport as a hub for national and international travel to and from the tri-state region, says Daniel Censullo, assistant executive director of new rail construction at NJT.
That benefit to the airport plays a large part in the funding for the station. The project is entirely paid for by Passenger Facility Charges grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. NJT is responsible for the management of design and construction of the monorail station and building.
Track work is also a part of the station project, with the Port Authority assuming responsibility for extending the monorail by one mile. NJT added track and signal improvements to the Northeast Corridor lines.
That included expanding the Northeast Corridor from four to six tracks at the station and installing high-speed turnouts. Jeffrey Warsh, executive director of NJT, says that two trains per hour per line will serve the station. Monorail service will be every seven minutes.
The overall design of the project emphasizes its integral role in NIA’s transportation functions. The station is aesthetically reflective of terminals C and D, with heavy use of materials and flourishes emblematic of the airport. Details include exposed steel, cowl wall systems and skylights.
Continental Airlines, which operates a hub out of Newark, was also involved in the design of the station. The airline’s relationship with the Port Authority and NJT is another factor behind the synchronicity of style.
The basic design of the station centers on a 300-ton concourse straddling the rail tracks and accessed by Americans with Disabilities Act compliant escalators and elevators. Because of the restrictions implicit in construction along rail lines, the pedestrian bridge was built alongside the tracks and then slowly rotated into place during a 10-hour procedure.
“What makes projects like this all the more amazing is that we’re building these multi-million dollar projects with the busiest railroad in the world running right through them,” Warsh says.
Passengers will also be able to check in their luggage at the station. Secure access roads were constructed to transfer checked baggage from the Newark Airport Station to the airport itself. Ticketing will also be available. The addition of convenience enhancing features relieves congestion in the terminals as well as on the road, says Robert Parlyak, project manager of the Newark Airport Station for NJT.
The Northeast Corridor is served by two platforms, each 1,500 feet long and 32 feet wide and with climate controlled waiting areas. Glass partitions along the monorail track will open in tandem with the vehicle doors for boarding and disembarking passengers.
The project is now largely complete, with an expected opening date of late 2001. Amtrak completed 98% of its work, Conrail 96% and the monorail terminal and station are at 85%. Parlyak says he anticipates the majority of passengers to be business travelers and airport employees.
The 9,000 daily riders expected will also have access to even more transportation options when the Secaucus Transfer opens in the fall of 2002. The station will be served by the expanded NJT rolling stock, including seven-car trainsets provided by Adtranz (recently acquired by Bombardier).
Tasman designs favor intermodal interface
Seeking to build upon the success of the Guadelupe Corridor LRT, the Santa Clara Valley (Calif.) Transportation Authority (VTA) recently began operating the western segment of the Tasman Corridor LRT system.
Tasman West LRT serves the cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Mountain View—heart of the famed Silicon Valley. The system comprises 7.6 miles of double-track construction, 12 stations, a bus transit center, a 150-space park-and-ride lot and a transfer connection to CalTrain’s Gilroy-to-San Francisco service.
Stations along the alignment enable riders to reach major employers in the area with just a short walk or shuttle bus trip from the nearest station. Retail centers and entertainment facilities are also easily reached from Tasman West stations.
Convenient transfers to CalTrain’s Gilroy-to-San Francisco service can be made at the Downtown Mountain View Station.
In order to permit construction of major structures in the summer of 1997, plans were issued nearly eight months ahead of schedule. Despite delays caused by the extremely harsh weather associated with El Niño, the system opened in December 1999—one year ahead of schedule.
Among its other noteworthy features, the Tasman West Light Rail extension achieves 100% accessibility in its light rail vehicle (LRV) fleet by incorporating low platform designs into all stations. A new fleet of vehicles is on order and will be operational in 2002. Existing step-well LRVs were remodeled for compatibility with mechanical lifts.
Approximately six miles of the alignment is double track, while the initial 1.5-mile segment alongside the CalTrain commuter corridor is a single-track installation. The alignment runs primarily at-grade in a variety of right-of-way conditions, including street median/street side alignments, a shared corridor with CalTrain commuter rail and a depressed section under a runway approach near Moffett Federal Airfield.
A 1.5-mile segment in Mountain View includes joint use with infrequent freight operations. The joint venture accounted for variances in its design of the trackwork, trackbed and systems installations, including electrification/traction power, communications, signals and corrosion controls. Structural designs and associated street improvements were developed to integrate the LRT with adjacent land uses.
The project area was contaminated by hazardous chemicals from Silicon Valley industries as well as Moffett Naval Air Station, including three Superfund sites and other facilities. A subsurface soil and groundwater field sampling program along segments of the proposed alignment identified localized areas contaminated with hydrocarbons from leaking underground fuel tanks, dense phase solvents, cyanide and metals. All those were remediated prior to construction.
Building on the success of the Tasman West system, the Tasman East Light Rail Project extends the corridor about five miles. The project consists of three sub-projects, which are now either complete or under construction: the Baypointe Extension, the I-880 Extension and the Hostetter Extension.
The Baypointe Extension Project features a major new station to allow passengers to transfer between the Tasman and Guadalupe lines. This transfer is required because of differences in the operating fleets and train lengths needed for each line. Beginning in 2004, the Tasman line will operate with an all new fleet of low-floor vehicles, while the Guadalupe line will continue to operate with the existing fleet. Station platforms on the Tasman line are designed 14 inches above the top of the rail to match the floor level of the new vehicles. This design feature will allow direct, level boarding of wheelchairs.
The Baypointe Station features two platforms with three tracks. Guadalupe trains operate on the center track, permitting passengers to cross platform access to Tasman trains. As the focal point of VTA’s system, the station features a canopy with art developed by a local artist. Construction was completed at the same time as the Tasman West Light Rail project to enable connection between the Tasman and Guadalupe lines.
With the North First Street intersection forecast to be one of the busiest in the entire system, it was timely to replace the rail at the North First Street and Tasman Drive intersections at the same time as construction of the Baypointe Station. At other locations within the Guadalupe system, curved girder rail suffered serious cracking of the flange heads.
The original special trackwork consisted of a half-grand union fabricated with girder rail, then embedded in concrete through the intersection. The replacement rail is standard tee-section rail with bolted restraining rails.
The next 1.5-mile extension of the Tasman line to the east is the I-880 extension, running from Baypointe Station to I-880. Due to open for service in the second quarter of 2001, this extension continues through San Jose and Milipitas along a major corridor of high-tech employers of the Silicon Valley, including Cisco Systems and Lucent Technology. The extension is a double track segment that includes two new stations and a 600-foot ballasted bridge crossing Coyote Creek, a major flood control channel from the coastal mountains to the San Francisco Bay.
The Hostetter extension project is a 3.5-mile continuation of light rail along the Great Mall Parkway in Milipitas and Capitol Avenue in San Jose. It features a 1-1/4-mile aerial guideway with two light rail stations on the guideway and two more at-grade stations within the segment to the east of the guideway structure. Because it is located equidistant between the San Andreas and Hayward faults, the structure is designed to resist seismic forces.
Scheduled for completion in 2004, the Hostetter extension serves the Great Mall of San Jose and enters a residential area of San Jose that will be connected into the light rail system.
In the near future, that extension will provide a connection point to a commuter rail system planned between the cities of Fremont and San Jose. It will eventually link with Bay Area Rapid Transit, thanks to voter approval of a funding measure in the November 2000 election. Transfers will be made at the Montage Station on the aerial guideway. (This segment also connects to another three-mile extension, the Capitol Light Rail project.)
Throughout those projects, the VTA’s land use planning efforts concentrated on transit-oriented development to promote land uses that will take full advantage of the LRT service. Planning for these projects is a cooperative effort of the VTA and the cities in the region, working in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and California Department of Transportation.
Those well-coordinated LRT systems serve as a model for what can be accomplished when economic growth strains existing transportation systems—providing residents with convenient light rail service while reducing demand on congested roadways.
— Chris Adams
PB/MK Project Manager
Parsons Brinckerhoff, San Jose, Calif.
Dallas engineers first subterranean station
The December 18 opening of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) first subway station, at Cityplace, was a construction challenge four years and $50 million in the making.
The $20 million finish out of the 33,000 square foot space was paid for almost entirely with local funds. A Tax Incentive Financing District grant from the developers of the service area provided $3.5 million.
Caverns for Cityplace Station were excavated from the 80,000-year old Austin Chalk formation concurrently with the construction of a 3.25-mile subway tunnel. The design incorporated domed spaces to better distribute weight and maintain structural integrity. Concrete was pumped over 700 feet and through multiple bends for pours of more than 130 linear feet on 30 degree angle surfaces.
Movement of materials was complicated by the agency’s determination to not allow construction to disrupt revenue service, says Gary Thomas, head of project management at DART. Some supplies were lowered into the station by elevator, but most arrived via rail during off-service hours. The 138-foot escalators were dismantled, brought in by train and reassembled underground.
While construction was a 24-hour process, Thomas says the shuttling of materials to the site occurred between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. Work on the project was underway while the tunnel was in use by DART light rail. Safety concerns regarding workers’ proximity to trains moving at 60 mph prompted the hiring of an on-site safety supervisor to enforce protocol.
The rooms carved out along the light rail tunnel also suffered from seepage characteristic of limestone formations. Moisture was controlled by the installation of drainage systems and pouring two concrete liners.
Cityplace Station features concourse, mezzanine and platform levels served by stairs, inclinators and six pairs of escalators. DART projected daily passenger traffic at 17,000.
DART officials are pleased with the public’s embrace of the station, says Martha Heimberg of DART’s public relations department. She said the already brisk traffic could be expected to increase once additional bus service feeding the line begins.