Gateway receives full funding for  billion for Cross-Hudson Tunnel
Gateway receives full funding for  billion for Cross-Hudson Tunnel

On Monday, politicians from New Jersey and New York met in Manhattan to celebrate the signing of a funding agreement that will complete a long-awaited rail project across the Hudson that will double the capacity of the struggling rail line and increase its reliability.

The signing ceremony Monday morning was a victory lap for Gateway Project supporters, who credited the Biden administration with the $6.8 billion grant that pushed rail expansion to the “point of no return.” The federal government will now cover about 70 percent of the cost of the Gateway program, which consists of a series of bridge and tunnel projects planned through 2038.

The project is designed to stabilize the problematic section of track – NJ Transit commuters have repeatedly had to endure hours-long delays in recent weeks after wiring problems occurred on the Amtrak-operated railways.

The Biden administration’s total commitment to the Gateway project of $12 billion represents the largest federal investment in a rail project in modern history. Build America Bureau loans of $4.06 billion will cover the local share of the costs.

“Today is a day of investment, the largest taxpayer investment in a transportation project ever,” said Senator Cory Booker. “Today is a day to return to what we claim to be: a nation that invests in itself so that we can grow our country and our economy and continue to be a world leader.”

Democrats used the event to praise President Joe Biden, who has been under pressure to abandon his re-election campaign after a mediocre performance at last month’s debate.

For example, Booker said former President Donald Trump had held up environmental reviews and other steps necessary for the project.

“If there’s a reason we’re here today, it’s because President Joe Biden, when he was elected, said this is the No. 1 infrastructure project in the United States of America,” Booker said. “And I want to thank President Joe Biden for his focus, his commitment, and for helping us in Congress and the Senate to accomplish what we see today.”

And Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg, who represented the administration at the ceremony, criticized Trump for “driving up costs and delaying this important work.”

“He really is Amtrak Joe,” Trottenberg said. “I’m proud to say we’re all in, from top to bottom.”

It is safe to assume that Republicans in New Jersey will also declare Gateway a victory: Representative Tom Kean (R-Westfield), who is in a close re-election race against Sue Altman, has used his seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to push the Gateway project forward.

Construction on one part of the project, the new Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River, began two years ago, but the funding agreement ends a years-long struggle to raise funds for the decade-long project.

The Gateway project includes the construction of two new rail tunnels and the rehabilitation of the existing North River Tunnel. The new tunnels are scheduled to open in 2035, with rehabilitation to be completed in 2038. The Portal North Bridge, which will replace the century-old Portal Bridge that regularly causes delays and congestion, is scheduled to be partially completed in 2025.

Later phases of the project, which include a planned expansion of New York Penn Station, are intended to enable a four-track rail line from Newark Penn Station to New York.

“Please be patient, this is not going to happen overnight,” Governor Phil Murphy said during the event. “But when it finally happens, it will change literally millions of lives and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Tony Coscia, chairman of the Amtrak board of directors and vice chairman of the Gateway Development Commission, said the project will double NJ Transit and Amtrak’s capacity from 450 to 900 trains per day.

“The new Hudson River Tunnel will improve rail connections in our region and across the country and expand rail service in ways we could only have dreamed of before,” Coscia said in a press release.

Senator Bob Menendez, a staunch supporter of the Gateway program, was absent from the ceremony – his corruption trial is nearing closing arguments – but praised the program in a statement on Monday.

“The hardworking people of New Jersey have waited too long for faster, safer and more reliable public transit along the Northeast Corridor, and now help is on the way,” Menendez said.

Memories of former Governor Chris Christie’s cancellation of an earlier rail project hung heavy over the event – several speakers praised the expansion but said it should have started years ago. Christie controversially withdrew New Jersey from the Access to the Region’s Core project in 2010, which began in 2009 and was scheduled to be completed in 2018.

“Like many of you, I had the heartbreaking experience in the Obama administration of watching a former governor of New Jersey cancel the original project,” Trottenberg said. “It was such a frustrating moment.”

But at Monday’s ceremony, officials thanked themselves, their colleagues across the Hudson River and the Biden administration for creating the framework for this landmark project.

“The Gateway Race was truly a marathon, with its twists, its turns, its bumps,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the signing ceremony on Monday. “But we laced up our shoes, kept the pace, and got it done.”

By Seren