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.”
According to the states, the project will build a new two-track tunnel, add the concrete casing at Hudson Yards and refurbish the Amtrak North River Tunnel. In a prior agreement with the Obama administration from 2015, the two governors would fund half of the project, with the federal government paying the rest. New York commits $1.75 billion, NJ Transit commits $1.9 billion and the Port Authority said it will fund $1.9 billion, for a combined $5.5 billion or 50 percent of the project’s cost. Fixing the tunnel would cost about $12.7 billion, which is a part of the $24 billion Gateway Program that includes a Penn Station expansion and new bridges in the Metro-Area.
“The Gateway Tunnel is critical to the long term vitality of the entire Northeast region and one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country,” Cuomo said in a press release. “New York State is stepping up to fund its share of the financial commitment as we rebuild our infrastructure all across the state. Now the federal government must fulfill its commitment to fund the other half and make this urgent, long-overdue project a reality.”
President Obama had made the project a priority by committing half of the funding for the program and fast-tracking its review process, but the Trump administration has shown less enthusiasm. As 6sqft previously reported, DOT representatives withdrew from the board of the Gateway program in July.
The letters penned by Cuomo and Christie recommend the corporation take out a 35-year, $1.75 billion loan through the federal DOT’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program. New York would pay back the loan over the next three decades through its budget, while New Jersey would increase the price of Manhattan-bound NJ Transit tickets beginning in 2020.
The White House and federal agencies have remained tight-lipped about whether or not it will fund its share of the project. However, a senior official familiar with the issue told Crain’s in an email: “NY and NJ’s submission on file proposes the federal government pay 85% of the project costs, for a tunnel where 9 out of 10 passengers are local transit riders. This is entirely unserious.”