In New York, Biden touts $300M investment for Hudson River rail project

February 1, 2023

President Biden hosted a press conference in NYC to discuss the Hudson River Tunnel Project on 1/31/23; Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

President Joe Biden made an appearance at Hudson Yards on Tuesday to announce a $292 million investment for a project that would fix a century-old rail tunnel and build a new one under the river between New York and New Jersey. The $16 billion Hudson River tunnel project is just one part of the broader $30 billion Gateway Project, which includes new bridges and the expansion of Penn Station. The funding announced by Biden will go toward a $649 million project that extends the concrete casing for the tunnels between Penn Station and the Hudson River before any work on the tunnels can actually begin.

“This is one of the biggest and most consequential projects in the country,” Biden said during the news conference on Tuesday. “But it’s going to take time. It’s a multibillion-dollar effort between the states and the federal government. We finally have the money and we’re going to get it done.”

The project’s funding derives from the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure law that Biden signed during his first year in office. The law designates $550 billion that can be used for transportation, which New York City will see through the form of upgrades to Amtrak, new subway station elevators, and the Gateway Project.

The project involves constructing a new tunnel and repairing the 113-year-old existing one. The new tunnel will allow trains to operate at faster speeds with fewer delays.

The existing tunnel was damaged in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, which dumped millions of salt water into the tunnel, with remnants of the seawater continuing to corrode the concrete, steel, tracks, and rails of the tunnel’s infrastructure today. The tunnel requires frequent maintenance, leading to numerous delays that affect the commutes of hundreds of thousands of riders. Passengers in 2020 experienced 12,653 minutes of delays due to the tunnel’s aging infrastructure, according to a statement from the White House.

As the only intercity passenger rail crossing into NYC from NJ, the tunnel is a critical link for nearly 200,000 daily passengers.

If the decrepit tunnel were to fail, it would have a devastating impact on NYC and the regional economy. If the tunnel were to cease operations for just one day, it would cost the American economy roughly $100 million, Biden said.

The project aims to reduce commute times for NJ Transit riders, make Amtrak service more reliable, and support the region’s economy. It is also projected to create roughly 72,000 direct and indirect jobs during its construction and will partner with unions for job training.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, Gateway was seen as a priority and the federal government agreed to split the cost with New Jersey and New York. But former President Donald Trump refused to fund the project during his time in office, delaying the project even further.

Last July, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Phil Murphy announced they reached a deal to split the project’s cost.

“I’m going to take advantage of this almost $300 million in funding to be a catalyst to get this project going – the first demonstrative step to make this historic project a reality,” Hochul said during the event with Biden.

The governor added: “This says we’re moving forward. We’re not stagnating in the past or the Covid world that paralyzes for too long. We’re reaching out in the future and seizing it with gusto, and I’m energized, excited.”


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