The long-simmering controversy over high-speed rail (HSR) continued during a May 6 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. Its theme: “When Unlimited Potential Meets Limited Resources: The Benefits and Challenges of High-Speed Rail and Emerging Rail Technologies.”
Gateway Development Corp
While the COVID-19 virus was occupying most of our attention, an event so unforeseeable and strange occurred that anything remotely resembling it had previously been considered unthinkable. For a brief time in April, oil literally became equivalent to trash. It brought a negative price on the market, which meant that its owners had to pay to get rid of it, as the cost to store it kept rising. That phenomenon was a momentary hiccup of our virus-based economy, but it says something about supply, demand and the cost of infrastructure. This does have something to do with the Gateway Program, and it is time for the members of the Board of the Gateway Development Corp. (GDC) to start noticing some recent changes. As of the May 28 meeting, they had not.
When we published the sixth article in this series last month, we promised continuing coverage of the Gateway saga. What we did not know at that time was that so much news would come to us so quickly. At a Board meeting of the Gateway Program Development Corp. on July 22, a Gateway spokesperson presented an analysis of delays that he attributed to the existing Portal Bridge and the existing Hudson Tunnels (also known as the North River Tunnels) on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and criticized the plan currently under way to rehabilitate the Canarsie Tunnels in New York City. Both analyses omitted facts that indicate that Gateway’s Hudson Tunnel and Portal North Bridge projects are not as cost-effective or necessary as he made them appear. Later that day, the Gateway Corporation became a “Commission” with questionable fundraising authority. Despite that change, a former offer by New Jersey Transit (NJT) to impose a surcharge on future rail trips to and from New York has been scuttled, raising the question of how New Jersey can replace the money that would have come from the surcharge.
The original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project started with a semblance of consensus but ended its 15-year life in controversy. Its replacement, Gateway, was proposed in February 2011, and has been surrounded by controversy for the entire eight years of its life, so far. The politicians and planners who are pushing the program consider it inevitable, just as they considered the now-defunct ARC Project inevitable almost until the day it was killed in 2010.
The $13 billion Hudson River tunnel project, aimed at building two new rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey, is again facing funding problems after federal authorities announced a rating that means the project remains “ineligible for critical grant funding.”
The Gateway Project to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey and New York has been mired in political controversy for years, going back to its first iteration, the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project, or “THE (Trans-Hudson Express) Tunnel,” dubbed by critics as “the tunnel to Macy’s basement,” and killed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the latest politician to add fuel to the fire.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured one of the two North (Hudson) River rail tunnels on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor linking New Jersey and New York to view corrosion and damage, and called on President Trump to support funding for repairs.
The Gateway Program Development Corp. knows the importance to showing and not just telling when it comes to complicated transportation projects.
A revision by the Federal Transit Administration lowering the priority rating for the proposed Gateway rail tunnels could endanger funding for the project linking New York and New Jersey.
Outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 14 said that have agreed that their states and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have agreed to contribute $5.55 billion toward the Gateway Program—50% of the massive project’s cost, and placing responsibility with President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Transportation to contribute the remaining half.