Will a Democratic House help green-light the $30B Gateway tunnel project?

November 8, 2018

As Politico reports, supporters of what many consider the region’s most crucial infrastructure project are cautiously optimistic for the project’s future for the first time since President Trump nixed federal funding. The massive project involves fixing the existing tunnel and constructing a new tunnel under the Hudson River.

Gateway Tunnel, Hudson River, Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently toured the damaged tunnel under the Hudson River.

The fate of the $30 billion tunnel-and-bridge project still depends on the Trump administration, but a House of Representatives that’s friendlier to big cities and civic projects and more likely to pressure the president to get the project started at the very least may mean it has a better chance of moving forward.

Hudson Valley U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said, “I think it means there’s a much better chance that we get it done, because it’s a top priority and because the president will be more likely to cut a deal to move it forward,” Maloney is currently the only New York Democrat on the House transportation committee.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy hopes the change in the House will move the deal along, NJ101.5 reports. Murphy said at a news conference, “I’m told by folks who know him a lot better than I do – and this is speculation, so this is not my opinion – that he plays the hand that he’s been dealt. And if you believe that and there’s more checks and balances from the House, maybe he has a different impulse on Gateway. I hope he does. I remain optimistic.”

Image via Wikimedia commons.

The glimmer of hope comes on the heels of more snags and delays; thousands of commuters using New Jersey Transit bemoaned what the New York Times called one of the nation’s most troubled railways when an Amtrak car derailed recently in one the two existing single-track tunnels. The century-old tunnel beneath the river was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and while President Barack Obama had pledged to split the cost of the $30 billion project, the Trump administration has said it won’t contribute federal funds.

Gateway Tunnel, Hudson River, Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the damaged tunnel in October to underscore the importance of federal funds to the repair project. The tunnel is the only intercity passenger rail that links New York and New Jersey, serving more than 200,000 daily commuters. Plus, all Amtrak trains that operate between Washington and Boston pass through one of the single-track tunnels.

The Northeast Corridor is said to create more than $50 billion in economic activity each year, with the region being home to more than 30 percent of all U.S. jobs. “You have a level of damage that is possible to interrupt service for days and if you lose service of one of these tunnels for one, two or three days you’re talking about a devastating impact on the whole Northeast Corridor,” Cuomo said. Even if funding is secured, it will take multiple years before construction starts, Cuomo said, cementing the project’s urgency.

Gateway has received some bipartisan support. Last year, former NJ Gov. Chris Christie had reached a deal with Cuomo to fund the two states’ share of repairing the tunnels, or $5.5 billion of the $12.7 billion needed for that project. Overall, the Gateway project requires closer to $30 billion, which includes two new bridges and an expansion of Penn Station.

In March, Congress approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill. But the legislation doesn’t include funding for the tunnel project directly, providing instead $650 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and allocating $2 billion in grants, for which the Gateway Program Development Corp. may apply. As 6sqft reported, the Department of Transporation said in a statement that the bill “removes preferential treatment for the New York and New Jersey Gateway projects.” And DOT board members, who are appointed by the president, review all federal grants to Amtrak.

All photos courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office except where noted.


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