PROPOSALS for a new $6bn rail tunnel under the Hudson River were approved by the New Jersey Transit board of directors on July 27.

Starting from Secaucus, the tunnel would run south of the existing tubes to a new terminus below Macy’s department store at 34th Street in Manhattan, which would have a pedestrian connection to the nearby Penn Station. The board did not endorse a proposed extension to Grand Central Terminal, because of the cost and lack of support from New York MTA.

The additional tunnels would allow NJT to increase its weekday ridership into Manhattan from 41000 to 86000 and provide a one-seat ride for many thousands of commuters who must now change trains in northern New Jersey. Although funding has not yet been identified, NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington hopes to get federal support so that preliminary construction can start in 2007.

With Bombardier due to deliver the first of 100 double-deck push-pull coaches this month, on July 27 the board approved an option to buy another 131 at a cost of $206m. The first 100, funded by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, are costing $243m.

The bi-level cars with mid-height end entrance vestibules are designed to fit through the cramped trans-Hudson tubes. The prototypes are due to undergo six months of testing at NJ Transit’s Meadows Maintenance Complex and at Pueblo before entering revenue service in late 2006.