Rebuilt Train Station Revitalizes New Jersey Community

The Northeast headhouse of the glass-and-steel PATH station in Harrison, New Jersey, which replaced its 80-year-old predecessor in October, is open for service and showcases what lies ahead for the community’s new transportation hub.

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The headhouse is a completely new building and is the first of four planned headhouses at the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) station. Harrison Station’s Southeast headhouse is expected to open in May 2019.

The station features modern amenities, glass-enclosed weather-protected station entrances, modern elevators, widened stairs and escalator access to the platform. It also features countdown clocks that will tell passengers when the next train will be arriving, and platforms that will accommodate 10-car trains.

Passengers now have a new entry/exit point to access Harrison Station and trains bound for Newark-Penn Station. When the Southeast headhouse is completed in May, passengers will have a secondary access to New York-bound trains.

“The replacement project involved modernizing the Harrison Station to meet the new needs of the Harrison community, which is undergoing a revitalization,” said Richard Acoury, WSP USA’s engineering manager for the project. “By increasing the entry points to the station, PATH customers can now safely access trains traveling in either direction without having to walk to the next intersection to cross over.”

WSP was part of a joint venture with Dattner Architects to design the new $180 million portion of the train station, working on behalf of PATH. WSP led the engineering efforts for track design, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, communications, and corrosion protection and coordination of various sub-consultants. The station is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).

The firm was responsible for project elements that included platforms, deep foundations including minipiles and drilled shafts, retaining wall design and retrofitting, track girder rehabilitation and catenary work.

©WSP USA

The new station features modern amenities, glass-enclosed weather-protected station entrances, modern elevators, widened stairs and escalator access to the platform.

Rising Ridership

Train ridership in Harrison has grown by about 25 percent over the past five years, currently accommodating about 2.6 million riders a year.

This increase has been due in part to recent commercial and residential development in the area, as well as the opening of nearby Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.

“The improved station has provided the impetus to encourage additional development around the station, which is further revitalizing Harrison,” Acoury said.

The Harrison Station replacement project will eventually include four new station houses that meet the modern requirements of the growing community, along with complying with American with Disabilities Act, flood protection and increased service.

“The importance of accessibility and reduced vulnerability of the Harrison Station cannot be understated,” Acoury said. “Harrison Station is located on the Northeast Corridor and along the Passaic River. During Superstorm Sandy, the flood waters from the Passaic River shut down all access to the station, impacting PATH service.”

The new station includes resiliency design to counter flooding and natural disaster-type events; security design, including blast proof, fire and smoke protection using computational fluid dynamics analysis; and the use of drilled shafts to reinforce existing retaining walls to support modern train loading.

Construction was staged to minimize disruption of service to PATH customers and Amtrak, as well as to minimize impacts to the community.

©WSP USA

The glass and metal PATH station replaces the adjacent outdated platform, which had been serving the Northeast Corridor line since 1937.

Collective Approach

Once design began in 2013, WSP provided key expertise in track, geotechnical and structural engineering that yielded the right solutions for PATH, Amtrak and the contractor.

“New design approaches were developed to provide constructible solutions,” Acoury said. “For example, WSP determined that the existing retaining walls did not meet the current rail car loading. Options to reinforce the existing retaining walls required a collective approach to provide a meaningful and constructible design.”

PANYNJ chose a construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) approach to develop and maintain a balance between the designers and contractors. Charrettes were scheduled throughout the design process to ensure that potential construction issues could be addressed during those meetings, before construction started.

“This collective approach to design and construction proved to be very successful and minimized the need to return to the drawing board and refine the design to suit contractor capabilities,” Acoury said. “By providing key expertise and know-how around the rail environment, WSP was able to streamline design approaches.”

He credited the use of the building information modeling (BIM) software Revit as a key aspect of the successful collaboration.

“At the time, Revit was fairly new to PANYNJ,” Acoury said. “The use of Revit afforded the team the ability to coordinate in a ‘live’ model when developing station house designs, which helped to improve coordination and reduce conflicts.”

©WSP USA

WSP was part of a joint venture to design the new $180 million portion of the train station, working on behalf of PATH.

On the Right PATH

An Oct. 30 grand opening celebration marked the start of service at the new Harrison station. Now, with the WSP portion of the project nearing completion, work has begun on the next phase of the project—a new approach for the west headhouses—with construction expected to be completed in three years.

“The public reaction to the new station has been extremely positive,” Acoury said. “Access to the station has improved customer flow, and planned developments are now being constructed in the area.”

He said the Harrison Station replacement project offered engineering challenges that required a collective approach to solve. By bringing together various engineering disciplines with experience working with PATH, Amtrak and NJ Transit, the design team was able to deliver a project that met program needs.

“Having experience working with PANYNJ for nearly 20 years, I was able to coordinate the various disciplines between WSP and PANYNJ, discuss the issues, and help guide the solution such that needs were satisfied on both sides of the fence,” Acoury said. “I took tremendous satisfaction knowing that the end result produced an impactful station for the community of Harrison, as well as for PATH.”

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©WSP USA

An Oct. 30 celebration marked the official grand opening of the station’s Northeast headhouse for passenger service.