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Despite forming an infrastructure task force made up of two New York-based developers, the Trump administration has withdrawn from the board of the Gateway Program, a $23.9 billion project that would add a second rail beneath the Hudson River.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.
Created in 2015, the Gateway Development Corporation is a nonprofit corporation made up of current and former federal, Amtrak, NJ Transit and Port Authority officials. In a letter to the corporation, the U.S. DOT’s Acting General Counsel Judith Kaleta announced that the department would “permanently withdraw” support from the corporation. A spokesperson for DOT said on Sunday: “The decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide.”
While President Obama made the project a priority by fast-tracking its review process and committing half of the funding for the program, the Trump administration has been less supportive. In the president’s preliminary 2018 budget, he proposed eliminating a grant program that would have put $750 million toward the construction of a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, east of Newark. While local funding remains in place for the bridge and construction is planned to begin within weeks, it remains unclear if the federal government will provide its intended share of the project’s funding.
In a statement, the interim executive director of the Gateway Project Corp., John D. Porcari, said: “Moving forward and completing the new Portal Bridge and Hudson River Tunnel is critical to create and preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs and to avoid the economic, transportation and environmental calamity that would occur were the existing tunnel to be closed before the new tunnel is opened.”
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