HELL’S KITCHEN — Views of the Hudson River from atop the High Line could be obstructed and traffic snarled by a ventilation shaft that could remain on the West Side for years during construction of a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, officials said.
The information was revealed during a discussion of the project to add a new Amtrak rail tunnel and rehabilitate the existing Northeast Corridor tunnel as part of the Gateway Program’s Hudson Tunnel Project.
The work will likely involve setting up a temporary construction site and permanent facilities — including a ventilation shaft — on a site between West 29th and 30th streets and 11th and 12th avenues, New Jersey Transit Chief Planner Jeremy Colangelo-Bryan told Community Board 4’s Chelsea Land Use Committee Tuesday.
During the presentation, committee co-chairs Lee Compton and Betty Mackintosh raised questions about the size and placement of the shaft.
“We would like the northwest corner [of the site] to be shaft-free, to provide views from the High Line,” Compton told Colangelo-Bryan.
But the planner acknowledged the structure could potentially obscure views of the Hudson River from the elevated park.
“As I mentioned... the dimensions are still in flux, and certainly the hope is that they shrink [it] a bit,” Colangelo-Bryan said.
Several years ago, Georgetown Company had hoped to construct a hotel at the same site, he added.
The board “had that discussion with Georgetown, and now we know we have to have it with you,” Compton responded, acknowledging that the shaft would have been “dwarfed by what was going to go there.”
The Hudson Tunnel Project's construction site could occupy a portion of the West Side site for around seven years — possibly from 2019 to 2026 — pending funding for the project, Colangelo-Bryan noted.
The ultimate goal of the project is to rehabilitate the existing tunnel under the river, using the newly constructed tunnel as a “bypass” while rehabilitation work happens, he said.
The two tubes in the existing tunnel — which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy — are “structurally safe,” but their electrical systems and other infrastructure are in “less than optimal condition,” Colangelo-Bryan added.
During the meeting, committee members also raised concerns that West 30th Street could be closed while construction takes place.
Colangelo-Bryan said he was “pushing for [the] engineers to commit to having a lane available at all times.”
“Whether or not that happens, I can’t say yet,” he said. “Certainly, we’re aware of a lot of activity on that block, and the goal is to minimize that disruption… as much as possible.”
On Wednesday, CB4 District Manager Jesse Bodine said both the High Line view and the possible traffic obstruction on West 30th Street were concerns for the board.
“I think we recognize that 30th Street is a major access point both for the [Lincoln] Tunnel [and] the highway there, and so that’s where our concern is,” he said.
The High Line and the western portion of the Hudson Yards were designed to allow for views from the park, Bodine noted.
“We would ask that any project there… be respectful of that and design something that allows a maximum view corridor to the river and the view… west and south," he said.