Amtrak and New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor–that which connects the state to Manhattan via the Hudson River tunnels–creates more than $50 billion in economic activity annually. And the region as a whole is home to 30 percent of all U.S. jobs, amounting to $3 trillion a year for the economy. But despite Donald Trump’s eagerness to both stimulate the economy and bring jobs back from overseas, he seems unphased by the dire need to construct a new rail tunnel to replace those built in 1910 that suffered major damage during Hurricane Sandy. According to Politico, in a meeting yesterday with New York and New Jersey Republicans, Speaker Paul Ryan made it clear that he will not include the $30 billion Gateway Tunnel project in the upcoming $1 trillion+ omnibus spending package if it means Trump will veto the bill, claiming that the President can’t stop talking about his opposition to what’s largely considered the most important infrastructure project in the nation.
President Donald Trump on Monday released his $200 billion infrastructure plan and it does not look good for New York and New Jersey. Because the plan shifts the financial burden from the federal government onto states and localities, relying on incentives to spur private investment, major projects will struggle to find funding. This includes the Gateway Tunnel project, a proposal to construct a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and repair the existing one. As the only intercity passenger rail crossing into NYC from NJ, the tunnel is a critical link for nearly 200,000 daily passengers. While the Obama administration considered Gateway a priority and committed half of the project’s cost in 2015, the Trump administration has scoffed at the idea.
The multi-billion-dollar plan to build a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River and fix the deteriorating existing one has hit another setback after President Donald Trump’s administration said on Friday it would not fund half of the project. As Crain’s first reported, the Federal Transit Administration wrote a letter to Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie in response to their revised plan to fund $5.5 billion of the $12.7 billion project. A top FTA official said the administration would not recognize the prior deal made between President Barack Obama and the states, calling it “a non-existent ’50/50′ agreement between USDOT, New York, and New Jersey.”
Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie on Thursday announced commitments to totally fund New York and New Jersey’s share of the Gateway Hudson Tunnel Project. The project aims to fix the 107-year-old tunnel damaged by seawater during Hurricane Sandy. It serves as the only intercity passenger rail crossing into NYC from NJ, a critical link for 200,000 daily passengers. Although two state officials wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation detailing their combined $5.5 billion funding of the project through various agencies, the Trump administration has not agreed to fund the rest of the $12.7 billion project. As Crain’s reported, a senior official at DOT called the states’ funding commitment “entirely unserious.”
The path for a future Hudson River tunnel is being preserved at Hudson Yards, photo via Amtrak
Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew in July from the board that oversees the Gateway Program, President Trump is keeping an open-mind about the nearly $30 billion project that would add a second rail beneath the Hudson River. According to the Daily News, during a meeting at the White House between New York and New Jersey elected officials and the Trump administration, the president showed interest in the project and appeared to support having the federal government pay for half of the cost. The new train tunnel under the Hudson would provide a critical link between NJ and Penn Station.
Image via Office of Gov. Cuomo depicting the Javits’ upcoming expansion
As the “summer of hell” days of emergency repairs to Penn Station’s rail system roll by, the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit transportation advocacy group, is intent on tackling the transit system’s biggest messes; specifically, the association warned that “public transportation across the Hudson River is in crisis,” and is in the process of updating its regional plan to address that issue and other transportation snarls. Among the group’s suggestions: building a terminal for intercity buses underneath the Jacob K. Javits center on Manhattan’s West Side, the New York Times reports.
Photo of Hudson Yards Amtrak tunnel encasement via Tutor Perini
Currently, the first part of two box tunnels under the Hudson Yards development, below 10th and 11th Avenues on Manhattan’s west side, sits mostly finished. While construction of the final piece has yet to begin, when it’s complete the remaining section would link the tubes to the proposed new tunnel under the Hudson River, providing better access to Penn Station. However, according to the New York Times, both tunnel projects, which fall under the multi-billion dollar Gateway Program, lack the funding needed to finish.
According to a report released Thursday by the federal government, constructing a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and repairing the existing one could cost nearly $13 billion, almost a 50 percent increase from an earlier $7.7 billion estimate. Transit officials say they are moving forward with the project because of its urgency; the two-track tunnel, which takes Amtrak riders and NJ Transit commuters to and from New York City, is over 100 years old and was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. According to Crain’s, the report, which evaluated the plan’s environmental and economic impacts, follows the recent withdrawal of the U.S. Transportation Department from the Gateway corporation board.
The two tunnels under the Hudson River that need repair, image via Amtrak
Despite forming an infrastructure task force made up of two New York-based developers, the Trump administration has withdrawn from the board of the Gateway Program, a $23.9 billion project that would add a second rail beneath the Hudson River. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said it is not their “practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects.” As the number of commuters entering the city from NJ continues to grow, the purpose of the Gateway Program was to double rail capacity between the two states as well as fix the Hudson River tunnel’s crumbling infrastructure, which was damaged by severe flooding during Hurricane Sandy. If one of the two tubes needs to be shut down before a new tunnel is built, train capacity into NY would be reduced by 75 percent.
As 6sqft reported recently, President Trump may include two major New York transportation projects in his proposed budget cuts, including the Gateway Program that would build a new train tunnel under the Hudson River and a program which extends the Second Avenue subway in Manhattan to East Harlem. The Gateway Program, which would add a much-needed second rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River and upgrade aging rail infrastructure in New York and New Jersey, has been relying on the federal government for half of its estimated $24 billion cost. WNYC reports that even if the funding is pulled, the agency may look to funding from a public-private partnership.