Monday, October 30, 2006

"New Yankee Stadium train station to lure suburban fans" The Journal News 10/29/6

New Yankee Stadium train station to lure suburban fans

(Original publication: October 29, 2006)

By opening day three years from now, the Bronx Bombers anticipate playing to a packed house in a new billion-dollar stadium.

But fans from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties should be able to avoid pre- and post-game traffic jams by leaving their cars at their hometown train stations.

Next spring, when the Yankees begin building their new 55,000-seat stadium, Metro-North Railroad plans to break ground on a $45 million Yankee Stadium station.

Metro-North planners have just doubled their estimate of the number of fans who would take the train to Yankee games. After counting 10,000 riders who took the Long Island Rail Road to the National League playoff games at Shea Stadium this month, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the railroad now anticipates 10,000 Yankee fans will hop on a Metro-North train to the team's 81 home games, too.

The railroad is running simulation models to determine how long the ride would take and how stadium-bound trains will fit into the schedule, while preserving the quality and quantity of service commuters have come to expect at the end of the workday.

The fastest ride to the stadium would be on the Hudson Line, Anders said, where the Yankee Stadium station will be located, so a trip from Tarrytown should take 20 minutes. Trains on the Harlem and New Haven lines would have to travel south of the stadium on their respective tracks before swinging north, so rides on those lines would take longer. Anders estimated that the ride from Port Chester or White Plains would take about 30 minutes.

Fans are excited by the idea of avoiding the hassles of traffic and parking when they go to a game.

"Who wouldn't take it?'' asked Michael Jimenez, 21, of Sleepy Hollow, who was wearing a Yankees cap and visiting a friend at the Yankees Clubhouse, a team memorabilia store in The Galleria in White Plains. "It can cost $20 or $25 to park, and it can take 20 minutes or an hour and a half to get home from the game."

His friend Erlin Almonte, 24, also of Sleepy Hollow, said he sometimes leaves games early to beat the traffic when the Yankees are ahead by 10 or 15 runs, and pointed out that a train ride would let him stay and see the whole game.

"It would be even better and more convenient, no matter how they do it," he said. "I think that's beautiful."

Fans from the city's boroughs have long been able to take the No. 4 or D subway trains to the Yankee Stadium/161st Street stop. Suburban fans can take Metro-North to 125th Street and walk a few blocks to the subway, but that's not a popular transfer point for suburban riders. A railroad station alongside the stadium should improve the odds that non-city residents will take the train to the game.

Here's how it will work: In the Bronx, at Woodlawn, the Harlem and New Haven lines merge and travel for seven miles south before they are joined by the Hudson Line at Mott Haven. At that junction, less than one-third of a mile southeast of the Yankee Stadium stop, there is a little-used track that allows trains from the Harlem and Hudson lines to switch over. That track is called a wye. A wye is shaped like the letter "Y," but with a curved connector between the two outstretched arms of the "Y." The railroad uses this track to reroute rescue trains, inspect tracks and redirect trains to its shops when they need repairs.

"Our concept is to spread the tracks to put two island platforms in for 10-car-length trains," said John Kennard, the railroad's director of planning and development.

The platforms would be served by stairs and elevators and connected to a new 24-foot-wide overpass, which the city will pay to build. Metro-North is negotiating with New York City and Related Companies of Manhattan for a new railroad right of way, Kennard said. A portion of the property the railroad needs to build the stadium station is on land owned by the state but leased to Related, which is building a shopping mall at the former Bronx Terminal Market nearby.

Before and after each home game, Metro-North expects to run 10 trains to and from the new station, serving riders on all three lines. Regular Metro-North riders could catch their commuter train to work in the morning and take a 15-minute express train from Grand Central Terminal to Yankee Stadium for a weeknight game.

The railroad's service plans are still being thought out, but northbound game trains might originate at Grand Central, then stop at 125th Street, where they would pick up game-bound riders heading south from Westchester, Putnam and Connecticut, Anders said. The 125th Street stop would add a minute or two to a game train's running time.

"I think the railroad station will probably get a lot of people out of their cars," said Robert Paaswell, director of the University Transportation Research Center at City College. "When they build the new Yankee Stadium, that will put pressure on for new restaurants, and you'll see more people coming in because of the ability to have lunch or dinner before or after the game."

Long a dream of railroad planners, the stadium station was endorsed by Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in April, then fast-tracked to approval by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board three weeks later. The station will be the first new one built by the railroad since the Wassaic and Ten-Mile River stations opened in July 2000.

The MTA plans to fund the construction with $40 million that had been earmarked for a La Guardia Airport subway link, an idea Pataki abandoned in the wake of community opposition, and another $5 million previously set aside for a Yankee Stadium station design. Fans and transportation advocates said the Yankees - not the MTA and its riders - should also contribute.

The Yankees should pay at least half of it, both Almonte and Jimenez said.

Paaswell, the Straphangers Campaign and other transit advocates also think the MTA should not be paying the station's tab.

"We think the Yankees should be footing the bill," said Beverly Dolinsky, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. "Here you have the richest team in baseball and the MTA is facing huge deficits and why aren't they footing the bill for this? I definitely think they should have a station there, and I've thought so for a long time, but I don't think they should be paying for it. They could be using the money for other things. They have a lot of projects they can't do because they have to space them out because they don't have the money."

Paaswell said the Yankees ought to pay at least 25 percent of the cost, adding that the developer of adjacent land, Related, which will also benefit, should have to contribute.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, who was recently reappointed to a second six-year term by Pataki, has brushed aside any notion that the team should pick up at least part of the tab, saying, "They're quite possibly the best team in baseball ... and we're lucky to have them."

Reach Caren Halbfinger at or 914-694-5004.


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