Title: Interagency Coordination
Phase(s): Preliminary Engineering and Final Design
Date: April 4, 1997
New Jersey Transit Corporation's Secaucus Transfer Station is a complicated project situation in the New Jersey's Meadowlands which straddles Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and New Jersey's Main and Bergen rail lines, and is adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike. Estimated cost exceeds half a billion dollars.
New Jersey Transit Corporation's (NJTC's) New Initiatives Program for the Urban Core consists of Kearny Connection, Secaucus Transfer Station, Northeast Corridor (NEC) High Density Interlocking System (HDIS), and NEC Power Improvements.
Kearny Connection links NJTC's Morris and Essex lines to the NEC, so that passengers can go directly to Penn Station in mid-town Manhattan. The connection includes a new interlocking with 80-mph turnouts for the merge and diverge to and from the NEC.
Secaucus Transfer Station will allow passengers to transfer from the Main, Bergen, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines to the NEC and travel to Penn Station in mid-town Manhattan. The project includes a three-level, 300,000 square foot station and expansion of the NEC alignment from two to four tracks on 15,000 linear feet of new viaduct and 7,000 linear feet of new embankment.
HDIS will modernize Amtrak's signal system between Newark and New York. This is necessary because Kearny Connection and Secaucus Transfer Station are expected to increase ridership and the number of daily trains by more than 40%. HDIS will be accomplished through AMTRAK Force Account work and through design/build contracts with various equipment manufacturers.
Finally, electric traction power on the NEC between Newark and New York will be upgraded. AMTRAK will accomplish this for NJTC through a design/build contract for a static frequency converter station in Sunnyside Yard, Queens, New York.
Secaucus Transfer Station is the largest and most complicated of the New Initiatives projects, with estimated costs in excess of half a billion dollars. The site is in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and its nucleus is bounded by the NEC, the New Jersey Turnpike, and NJTC's Main and Bergen lines. Of course access is difficult. This project is a public-private partnership, in that a significant portion of the property upon which Secaucus Transfer Station will be built is owned by the developer Allied Junction Corporation. Allied Junction Corporation will ultimately build an office complex above and around the Secaucus Transfer Station. NJTC must constantly deal with AMTRAK regarding design and construction of Secaucus Transfer Station and NEC Improvements. Two different HDIS projects take place within the bounds of the Secaucus project; 1) a temporary signal system to be used while construction of the Transfer Station and NEC Improvements is ongoing, and 2) the permanent signal system. Hackensack
Meadowlands Development Commission (HMDC), a regulatory arm of the State of New Jersey, must review and approve all plans for development within the Meadowlands area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with the USEPA and the NJ DEP, makes sure wetlands mitigation and other environmental considerations are planned and carried out. Numerous utilities, Hudson and Bergen County governments, the Town of Secaucus, City of Jersey City and various private owners of property needed for access are also involved in this project.
2. The Lesson
NJTC had to pay particular attention to interagency coordination in order to design and build the complex Secaucus Transfer Station and related NEC Improvements on time and within budget.
One engineering firm (assisted by a team of 24 consultants) was retained for overall design of the project, and another engineering team (consisting of 8 consultants) is used for construction management. Repeated meetings were held with all parties. The engineering designers developed an overall plan, broke it into design packages, and continued to refine design details and modify design packages. The construction manager reviewed the designs for constructibility, and also made recommendations regarding the sequence and manner in which the overall project was put together. The construction manager assembled fragment schedules for each individual design package, and combined these individual schedules into a master control schedule. Iterated schedule workshops were held with related groups such as AMTRAK and Conrail Force Account and HDIS designers. The design engineer was represented at all significant construction management meetings, and construction management representatives were present at all major design meetings. NJTC managers attended all consequent design and construction management meetings. Finally, NJTC and AMTRAK, assisted by the design engineer and the construction manager, worked together to reschedule train operations on the NEC, introducing a "train fleeting concept" so that longer work windows for double-track fouling could be provided on the risky, time-consuming Foundation Contract.
Secaucus Transfer Station and related NEC Improvements is a project fraught with possibilities that an oversight, and/or a seemingly small issue that fell between the cracks of agencies and consultants' responsibilities, and/or a simple missed communication could cause major time and cost overruns. Yet, thanks to diligent coordination efforts by NJTC and its agents, Secaucus Transfer was within budget and on schedule for an on-time early spring, 2002 completion.
Those responsible for complex transit projects in areas of limited access, with heavy involvement of regulatory agencies and much required interaction with other transportation providers would do well to study and follow NJTC's example on the Secaucus Transfer Station. NJTC's method of repeated interaction and coordination is particularly applicable to the engineering and construction of intermodal facilities, which by definition almost always involve a variety of owner agencies and federal, state, and local regulatory groups.
Although interactive reviews, cross-attendance at meetings, etc. are time-consuming and costly, these interagency coordination efforts are far superior to the alternative: a poorly-planned and engineered project with major glitches, planned construction methods which are not allowed by regulators, lack of linkage between individual construction contracts, disruptions, individual and system-wide delays, and ultimately large overruns in time and cost. Problems are always solved quickly and easily and less expensively when they are addressed before they happen.
Secaucus Transfer Program Project Management Plan