When we last reported to you about Amtrak’s Hudson River Tunnels, known officially as the “North River Tunnels” between New Jersey and Penn Station New York (Gateway: The Series, Part 8: The Existing Tunnels May Fail First, posted here on Dec. 30, 2019), we had discovered that Anthony R. Coscia, Chair of the Amtrak Board and Vice Chair of the Gateway Program Development Corp. Board, expressed his concern that the tunnels could fail within five years. That was a time frame far shorter than the ten years or more that it would take to build new tunnels before starting to repair the existing ones.
Around 1900, sharp operators in New York City would fleece tourists by offering to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge, which still impresses and inspires New Yorkers and visitors today, was a marvel of its age and towered over everything else on the Manhattan or Brooklyn sides of the East River when it opened for service in 1883. Today, there are still people who have a bridge to sell us; two bridges, in fact. They want transit riders and taxpayers in New York and New Jersey to spend more than $3 billion to replace one bridge with two. They also say that replacing a two-track bridge with another two-track bridge will expand capacity sufficiently to qualify for a grant program established specifically for that purpose.
In Part 2 of “Gateway – The Series,” authored by Contributing Editor David Peter Alan, the implication is made that all rail advocates support a two-track replacement of Portal Bridge as well as foregoing the Gateway Project by adopting the “L-Train Tunnel” solution advocated by Columbia University engineers to repair the existing 100-plus-year-old Hudson River tunnels.
Ever since Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York and New Jersey region in October 2012, the tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Penn Station New York have been described as a ticking time bomb, subject to complete failure at any time; at least any time after 2021, and more likely after 2034.
Anyone connected with the series of passenger rail projects in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area known collectively as Gateway will claim that their eventual completion is inevitable, much like former California Gov. Jerry Brown claimed that completion of the virtually defunct California High-Speed Rail Project was inevitable, or how anti-rail activists like Randal O’Toole claim that the impending demise of passenger trains and rail transit is inevitable. Yet, circumstances have changed in recent years, and new discoveries have led some advocates in the region to doubt the cost-effectiveness, and even the feasibility, of building Gateway as currently proposed.
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.”
President Trump on Friday signed the $1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill, keeping the government running through September and freeing up federal funding for Amtrak and the Gateway project he had opposed.
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.
Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams outlined a series of concerns regarding an updated financial plan for the Hudson Tunnel project in a letter to New York State Director of Budget Robert Mujica on Dec. 29.
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.