You might have heard that last week was “Infrastructure Week” across the nation. So we wanted to take the time to blog about an exciting and much needed improvement that might not ever make it. We’re talking about the Gateway Plan to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River. It was supposed to (and was expected to) begin this year, but whether that will happen or not is uncertain according to an initial preview of President Donald Trump’s first budget. The budget has put the project’s substantial federal funding in question.
Once completed, the new tunnels would alleviate concerns about the havoc that an emergency shutdown of the existing tunnels would cause, and also help to ease the frequent delays that can occur for riders on NJ Transit and Amtrak trains. Both lines share the same Amtrak-owned infrastructure and support an estimated 200,000 daily train passengers. The plan, considered to be vital to the region’s economic success, has a goal of doubling train capacity more than a decade from now.
We blogged before about the horrible situation with Penn Station which often (honestly, almost always) has commuters arriving to work late and often looking at a board of cancelled trains. The Gateway project has gained a lot of traction lately due to ongoing issues at Penn Station and an increasingly apparent need for a transportation system that can accommodate the region’s growing traffic.
This month, a high-ranking member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Friday called the Gateway tunnel project “the single most important infrastructure project in the country.” Unfortunately, he said, the White House doesn’t seem to agree. “All the signs out of Washington are troubling,” said Ali Chaudhry, Cuomo’s newly appointed deputy secretary of transportation. “It should really be something that the federal government is prioritizing, but we just don’t see that.”
Chaudhry spoke at a New York Building Congress event in Brooklyn. Much of his presentation focused on touting Cuomo’s plan to invest $100 billion in state infrastructure. New York Building Congress President Carlo Scissura noted the “national perspectives” that will impact Gateway but praised the Cuomo administration for pushing forward several public projects.
There are some in Washington that support the plan. Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (who is married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky) called Gateway an “absolute priority.”
The Gateway plan is yuuuuuuge as some New Yorkers say. It involves a replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge near Secaucus Junction station and an expansion of Penn Station.
New Jersey and New York had cut a deal with the Obama administration to split the cost of the tunnel, but it’s unclear if that agreement will ultimately stand.