New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board’s Finance Committee granted approval to purchase Grand Central Terminal, and Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line and Hudson Line from a private holding company. That company, Midtown Trackage Ventures LLC, had acquired assets that once belonged to PennCentral Transportation, the railroad whose 1970’s bankruptcy and liquidation led the MTA to assume management of regional rail operations. Approval of the MTA’s full Board is required for this transaction to go forward, and is expected this week.
Owning the properties means that for the first time, Metro-North Railroad will have unencumbered control and responsibility of its operating environment. The MTA’s ownership of Grand Central Terminal will further give MTA Long Island Rail Road clear control of the East Side Access terminal being built beneath Grand Central Terminal.
MTA ownership of the Harlem Line and Hudson Line means that the public can now capture the full value of improvements made through transit-oriented development projects and other public-private partnerships along the rail lines as communities advocate for such projects in the years ahead.
The purchase would put an end to a 280-year lease that gives the MTA a one-time window of opportunity to buy the assets, which closes in 11 months. The purchase price, approximately $35 million, is equal to the net present value of the estimated rental stream the MTA had been paying under the lease, discounted at a rate of 6.25%.
The MTA’s Hudson Line ownership will extend to 2.2 miles north of the Poughkeepsie Station. This point, where Metro-North train dispatchers hand off control of train movement to Amtrak, is known to railroad operations personnel as Milepost 75.8, representing its distance from the bumper blocks at Grand Central. Tracks north of this point are owned by CSX Transportation, one of the seven major “Class I” railroads that carry freight throughout the U.S.
The portion of the Harlem Line now being acquired by the MTA extends as far north as Dover Plains, N.Y. The MTA previously acquired the segment of the line from Dover Plains to Wassaic, N.Y., in 1990 when Metro-North extended the Harlem Line tracks northward over this five-mile segment.