The $24 billion plan to construct two rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River has been designated a priority, which will get it fast-tracked through environmental and permitting stages and trim development time by a year or more, the Wall Street Journal reports; with construction beginning in 2019, the tunnels could be operational as early as 2024, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a news conference at Penn Station on Friday. Both Amtrak and NJ Transit will use the new tunnels, which are among the first steps in a broader plan by Amtrak find ways to handle double the current number of passenger trains running beneath the Hudson River.
As 6sqft previously reported, the project is part of an improvement plan known as the Gateway Program, whose most major components are the Hudson Tunnel Project and the expansion of New York Penn Station. Work on the project first began in 2013, with federal funding received by New York after Superstorm Sandy going toward preserving a right of way for the new rail tunnel at Hudson Yards. Amtrak has estimated that environmental reviews would take two to four years.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie confirmed their states’ commitment to pay for half of the project’s $24 billion cost, although “details of how it would be paid for remain a work in progress.” Earlier this year, the state allocated $70 million for early engineering work the project. The tunnel project will be included in a 10-year capital plan that will be released shortly by the Port Authority, and part of the financial burden could be offset by low-cost federal loans, said officials Friday.
Amtrak would cover 10 percent of the cost, and federal grants would eventually pick up 40 percent of the projected $24 billion. The tunnels are among projects that could receive grants available from a federal program known as New Starts.
The passenger tunnels currently in use under the Hudson opened in 1910. Mr. Foxx said, “this tunnel is older than the Titanic and the damage from Sandy made it worse,” He also noted that even with the expedited effort, the federal commitment couldn’t make “$23 billion appear overnight in grant funding.” Transportation officials are also worried about congestion in the region if the tunnels need to be closed for repairs.
New Jersey’s U.S. senator Robert Menendez agreed that the tunnel project was a priority and that delays would be “too big a risk for New Jersey and for the region and for everyone who needs to get into intercity travel.”
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