Construction officially begins on Hudson River tunnel project
Work to replace a decaying rail tunnel under the Hudson River is moving ahead after receiving $3.8 billion in federal funding. Gov. Kathy Hochul, United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Chuck Schumer and other officials on Friday announced the start of the first phase of the $16 billion Hudson Tunnel Project, part of the Gateway Program. This early phase of the project will create concrete casings for trains to travel under the Hudson River and through to Pennsylvania Station and will raise a section of road in New Jersey that will feed into the mouth of the new tunnel.
According to Schumer, with the additional $3.8 billion, the federal share of the cost is at 70 percent.
“For a long time now, the Gateway project has been my passion. It’s a labor of love. And after many false starts and obstacles placed in our way, Gateway is full speed ahead with billions in federal dollars I secured ready to go towards this critical work and construction,” Schumer said.
“Gateway’s future is assured and the most important public works project in America is all systems go.”
In September, the Gateway Development Commission awarded the first contracts for construction on the New Jersey side of the two-track tunnel project, with work expected to break ground in October.
Using $25 million in grants from the federal government, the commission approved $47.3 million in contracts that allow Conti Civil, a NJ-based company, to proceed with moving utilities and starting construction on a new roadway bridge on Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen. The company will raise a portion of the avenue to provide a 19-foot clearance above the train tracks and create a bridge that feeds into the mouth of the new tunnel, according to the New York Times.
After the avenue is raised, work can begin on the actual excavation of the rail tunnel below the Hudson River, which is expected to begin in 2025. If it all goes according to plan, the new tunnel will open after a decade of construction.
In 2010, a similar plan was underway to realign the same portion of Tonnelle Avenue to provide access to the end of a different tunnel connecting to NYC. The plan, known as Access to the Region’s Core (ARC), was discarded by former Gov. Chris Christie who feared that NJ would be left to pay for the project’s hefty $8.7 billion price tag.
Had the state continued with the work, the tunnel would be ready for use within the next couple of years, according to the New York Times.
The Hudson Tunnel Project will replace two aging tunnels, allowing trains to operate at faster speeds and with fewer delays. The two passageways, which are 113-years-old, were damaged in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy by millions of gallons of salt water that flooded into the tunnels. Some of the seawater still continues to corrode the concrete, steel, tracks, and rails of the tunnel’s infrastructure to this day.
The Hudson tunnel requires constant maintenance which leads to numerous delays that impact the commutes of hundreds of thousands of riders. During 2020, passengers experienced 12,653 minutes of delays due to the tunnel’s aging infrastructure, according to a statement from the White House.
Despite its decrepit condition, the tunnel is a vital part of the economy. If it were to shut down for just one day, it would cost the nation’s economy roughly $100 billion, according to President Joe Biden. The project is expected to create roughly 72,000 direct and indirect job over the course of its construction and will work with unions for job training.
“A century ago our leaders knew and had the vision to recognize this need for a connection to bring our nation together. They knew that a reliable rail system could bring tremendous benefits beyond just New York and New Jersey,” Hochul said.
“Today we’ve seen that this corridor is vital to our economic success. That has been the story for over a century. But now we’re called upon to make the investments to ensure for the next 100 years. This is reliable, it’s stable, it can be counted on.”
In July 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul of NY and Gov. Philip D. Murphy of NJ agreed to split the $14 billion price tag for the local costs of the Hudson Tunnel Project. The Port Authority of NY and NJ have a total commitment of $2.7 billion to the first phase of the project, but a signed agreement with the federal government is not expected until next year, according to the New York Times.
In February, Biden appeared at Hudson Yards to announce a $292 million investment in the HTP. The funding was put towards a $649 million project to extend the concrete casing of the tunnels between Penn Station and the Hudson River before any work on the tunnels could actually begin.