Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — Courtesy: Tim Larsen/Office of the Governor
By Joshua Burd
The states of New Jersey and New York will contribute more than $5.5 billion to building a second tunnel under the Hudson River, a long-awaited project seen as critical to the region’s economy and as protection against future flooding events like Hurricane Sandy.
The commitments Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo follow a 2015 pact in which the states effectively agreed to split the cost of the so-called Gateway tunnel project with federal government. But officials and business leaders in both states have been anxiously awaiting to see whether President Donald Trump, who is expected to unveil a massive infrastructure spending plan, would honor a commitment made under the Obama administration.
Christie and Cuomo said their states’ $5.55 billion pledge would fund the most urgent, time-sensitive elements of the Gateway program — the construction of a new two-track tunnel and a new Hudson Yards concrete casing. The state commitments include $1.9 billion by NJ Transit — much of it through a new fee on riders — along with $1.75 billion by the state of New York and $1.9 billion previously committed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
All told, the Gateway project is estimated to cost $12.7 billion. A third component calls for the rehabilitation of the existing Amtrak North River Tunnel, which opened in 1910 and has lasting damage from when it was crippled by Sandy in October 2012.
“The commitments we make today mark a pivotal milestone in the construction of the Hudson River Tunnel Project, and builds on the work we began earlier this year with the early construction of the Portal North Bridge Project,” Christie said, adding that it positions the Gateway project to immediately compete for federal Capital Investment Grant funds. “The Hudson Tunnel Project is critical to the regional and national economy and protects against a potentially disastrous scenario of a closure of one of the two tubes of the existing North River Tunnel.
“Together, with the rehabilitation of the existing tunnel, this project will result in the crucial Northeast Corridor having four tracks between New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River, allowing for increased ridership in the future.”
Christie, who canceled a previous plan to build a new Hudson River tunnel, leaves office next month. Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Thursday reportedly panned the proposal to create additional fees for NJ Transit riders, but has expressed support for the Gateway program in the past and stopped short of saying he would reverse the proposal.
Thursday’s statement by Christie and Cuomo said the environmental review process has been expedited and is on schedule to receive federal environmental approvals by March 2018, or sooner. The local share of funding for the reconstruction of the Portal North Bridge Project is already fully committed and early construction began in October 2017, although major construction is pending the commitment of the federal share of funding.
“The Gateway Tunnel is critical to the long term vitality of the entire Northeast region and one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country,” Cuomo said. “New York State is stepping up to fund its share of the financial commitment as we rebuild our infrastructure all across the state. Now the federal government must fulfill its commitment to fund the other half and make this urgent, long-overdue project a reality.”