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N.Y., N.J. Sign Funding Agreement for Phase I Gateway

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The Gateway Program will eventually double rail capacity between Newark, N.J., and New York. (GDC)

The Gateway Program will eventually double rail capacity between Newark, N.J., and New York. (GDC)

The governors of New York and New Jersey on July 5 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining sources, uses and timing of funding on behalf of the states for the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel projects.

They represent the approximately $14 billion first phase of the massive Gateway Program, which will eventually double rail capacity between Newark, N.J., and New York (see map below).

A new Portal North Bridge will replace a mechanical-trouble-plagued swing bridge built by Pennsylvania Railroad in 1910, which has been called an “enduring source of major service disruptions” for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak riders traveling on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). In April, a “Notice to Proceed” was issued to the Skanska/Traylor Bros PNB Joint Venture (STJV), which will build the bridge under a $1.56 billion contract. Work is slated to take approximately five and a half years to complete.

Portal North will replace the 112-year-old Portal Bridge, a mechanical-trouble-plagued swing bridge built by the Pennsylvania Railroad as part of its New York Improvements project.

The Hudson Tunnel project, valued at some $12.3 billion, includes construction of a new two-track rail tunnel along the NEC from the Bergen Palisades in New Jersey to Manhattan that will directly serve Penn Station New York. It consists of three major elements: the Hudson Yards right-of-way preservation project, a new Hudson Tunnel, and the rehabilitation and modernization of the existing North River tunnel (see map below).

The current tunnel system is 112 years old and was damaged in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy. About 450 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains use the tunnels each weekday, and before COVID-19 hit there were about 200,000 daily passenger trips.

In January, the project received a medium-high rating from the FTA Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program.

Phase I of the Gateway Program will be funded by a combination of federal and local sources, according to the governors’ offices. On behalf of the states, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s total commitment is $2.7 billion.

Federal funding sources are slated to cover some 60% of the Portal North Bridge cost; the states of New York and New Jersey will each contribute $386.2 million for a total of $772.4 million, according to the governors’ offices. For the Hudson Tunnel project, the states will similarly split the local share 50-50.

“Signing this MOU advances the Gateway Program to its next phase, which will detail the parties’ responsibilities with respect to delivery of the Hudson Tunnel Project and move forward in the federal project review,” the governors’ offices reported.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

“The Gateway Hudson Tunnel Project is vital to the Northeast corridor, and today’s [July 5] announcement is a critical step forward in turning this vision into reality,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “By signing the Phase I Memorandum of Understanding, we are establishing the framework to get this project over the finish line and are making good on our promise to modernize the state’s transportation infrastructure and create a mass transit system worthy of New Yorkers. I thank my partner [New Jersey] Gov. [Phil] Murphy, as well as our state and federal representatives, especially Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] and the Biden Administration, for their tireless efforts on this transformative project.”

“Today [July 5] marks a pivotal milestone toward the completion of the most significant transportation project not just in New Jersey, but in the entire United States,” Gov. Murphy said. “The Gateway Project reflects the importance of New Jersey’s regional partnerships and its alignment with the Biden Administration’s infrastructure and transportation priorities. As we proceed with construction of a new tunnel under the Hudson River, we advance one step closer toward a New Jersey that is better connected and better positioned to reap the full economic benefits of our status as a regional crossroads. I thank Governor Hochul, as well as our Gateway Program partners, our respective federal and state delegations, and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their support in achieving this next great step.”

“We appreciate the efforts of Govs. Murphy and Hochul in moving this critical transportation project closer to the finish line,” NY/NJ Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said. “It is a project of enormous consequence for the many millions of riders who will benefit from it and it will be a significant driver of economic growth for the entire New Jersey-New York region.”

“The signing of this MOU marks an important step forward in making the nation’s most vital and impactful rail project a reality,” NY/NJ Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said. “We are delighted to see real progress being made toward a better, more reliable travel experience for rail customers throughout our region.”

In related developments, late last month Amtrak, in partnership with NJ Transit and in coordination with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, entered into a $73 million, two-year contract with a team led by global engineering, consulting and design firm Arup to begin designing options for Gateway Program extensions and additions to the existing tracks, platforms and concourses in Penn Station New York. Also, in May Govs. Hochul and Murphy nominated Kris Kolluri to serve as CEO of the Gateway Development Commission, a partnership between the two states and Amtrak that is working with the PANY/NJ and New Jersey Transit (NJT) to coordinate delivery of the Gateway Program.

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