Back in January, Amtrak unveiled its $24B Gateway Program, a plan that would overhaul the Hudson River rail tunnels by building a brand new tunnel and repairing another that is currently in disrepair. Work under the plan would also encompass expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey. While details on the course of construction were previously thin, according to draft proposals obtained by Reuters, we now know that work on the new tunnel will begin in 2019, and the West Side Highway could be subject to three years of traffic jams as a result.
Hudson River tunnels
Approval process for new $24 billion Hudson River tunnels fast-tracked; construction could start in 2019, Tue, October 18, 2016
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.
Just two months ago, the state allocated $70 million for early engineering work on a new Hudson River tunnel, part of the larger $20 billion Gateway project to fix the crumbling, century-old tunnels that currently carry New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains under the Hudson River. Despite the move forward, a traffic consultant from Delaware thinks he has a better idea.
NJ.com shared Scott R. Spencer’s proposal for twin suspension bridges that would stretch 3.5 miles from New Jersey, across Manhattan at 38th and 39th Streets, and in to Queens. He believes the plan, aptly titled the Empire State Gateway, would be a much quicker solution to the current transportation woes, with one bridge taking about five years to complete versus 20+ years for the tunnels. Spencer’s idea, however, would also cost $20 billion, and as Untapped points out, would cast quite the shadow over Midtown (not to mention the countless approvals and variances it would require).
When Governor Cuomo announced his $3 billion revamp of Penn Station earlier this month, skeptics were quick to point out that all the glassy new structures and reconfiguration of waiting rooms won’t do anything to help the fact that the Hudson River rail tunnels are crumbling. Clearly on the same page, Amtrak announced yesterday a detailed overview of the entire infrastructure project, and it comes in at a whopping $23.9 billion.
According to the Times, “the largest share of about $7.7 billion [will go towards] building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel. The project includes a host of other elements, including expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion, and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey.”
People are getting fed up with the century-old, crumbling Hudson River tunnels. One Jersey resident even went so far as to hire an architecture firm to design a sky bridge connecting Jersey City to Battery Park City. But grand visions aside, the state of the infrastructure is serious. To illustrate this point, but make it a bit more simple to digest, the Regional Plan Association has released a three-minute animated video called “Tunnel Trouble” that, as Crain’s puts it, “shows a hellish commute for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak riders if new tunnels are not built.” The narrator states, “they are the biggest bottleneck in the metro region’s transit network, causing delays that ripple up and down the northeast corridor.”