MEETING ON August 1, the New Jersey Transit board awarded an $82·5m contract to a joint venture of Parsons Brinckerhoff, STV and DMJM Harris/AECOM for preliminary engineering work on the Trans-Hudson Express tunnel.

Over the next 18 months the consultants will look at tunnelling techniques, construction staging, property acquisition and utility relocation requirements. At the same time NJ Transit will finalise the track alignments and agree the construction plans with Amtrak and New York MTA. NJT will also look at operating plans and refine the project cost estimates.

The $6bn THE project includes a two-track tunnel beneath the Hudson River from northern New Jersey to a new terminal under 34th Street in Manhattan, together with new connections bringing the total length to 15 km. NJT hopes to begin construction by 2009 so that revenue service can start in 2015.

At the same meeting, the board adopted a $1·5bn operating budget and a $1·3bn capital programme for the financial year starting on October 1. The capital budget includes $65m for development of a new line in Bergen and Passaic counties to be operated by DMUs and $105m for THE. Another $15m was allocated for extension of the Hudson-Bergen light rail line south to Eighth Street in Bayonne.

The board also began a programme to replace 230 Arrow III commuter rail cars. It has awarded a $3·3m contract for a study into the possible replacement for up to $500m of the Amtrak-owned Portal Bridge in the New Jersey Meadowlands which forms a bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor.