Friday, July 07, 2017

Construction of new NJ-NY rail tunnel to cost billions more than estimated

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A new two-track rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey would cost $12.9 billion, up from previous estimates of $7-10 billion.

At the same time, a preliminary environmental impact statement has been completed, but there is still no plan on how to pay for the project.

A price tag for the new tunnel is $11.2 billion, and $1.2 billion to renovate the existing two-track tunnel built more than a century ago, according to John Porcari, Interim Executive Director of the Gateway Program managing the project and reported July 6 by Associated Press.

The tunnels, and a replacement for the century-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey comprise the first phase of the Gateway program to improve rail capacity on the Northeast Corridor.

A funding agreement from the Obama era has New York and New Jersey splitting half the cost and the federal government paying for the other half. But the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget proposal to phase out the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Improvement Grant (CIG) program could drastically cut funding.

Thanks to a streamlined environmental process approved under Obama, Porcari said Thursday that after public hearings this summer he expects a final environmental statement to be completed by spring 2018. With federal funding in place preliminary construction on the tunnels wouldn't begin until late next year and full construction in 2019, Porcari said.

"Any delay in putting together that partnership can translate into a delay for the opening date," he said. "We have tried to minimize that by doing things like accelerating the environmental impact statement. But it's clear we need to make sure we're working together with our federal partners on the project."

The project "simply doesn't go forward without a federal funding component," he added.




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