By Briana Vannozzi
It’s a federal fast track for the massive Gateway project that will expand and improve rail connections between New Jersey and New York.
“This is one of the most significant transportation projects in the country. We do not have time to waste. We have to get this done or else we’re going to lose a lot of capacity on the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The $24 billion proposal will construct a new tunnel under the Hudson River. The transportation project rose out of the ashes of the canceled ARC Tunnel. And today, leaders from both states announced they’ve secured several sources of funding to supplement a pathway already at capacity and made more vulnerable after Superstorm Sandy.
“This summer I announced that the department had officially placed the Gateway Tunnel project in the New Starts pipeline. This is extremely significant because it puts the project on the path to potentially receiving billions of dollars in federal grants,” Foxx said.
The review process has been placed on what’s known as the president’s Permitting Dashboard. It’s an online portal that helps track complex infrastructure projects. This new designation pushes any permitting needs for Gateway to the front of the line.
“This means not that any review will be skipped, but that every review will be expedited,” Schumer said.
“Gateway isn’t a traditional transit project because it serves not only NJ Transit but Amtrak riders as well and while it may not seem like much of a distinction to us, the New Starts program wasn’t designed and legally could not fund projects that include intercity rail elements,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
Menendez helped rewrite a federal transportation bill to include projects like Gateway.
Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the federal government and lawmakers have all said they’re on board to get the project through, announcing $235 million to complete the first phase of construction — the Hudson Yards concrete casing project. And $55 million to replace the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.
“The Portal Bridge, many people don’t realize that’s the choke point, not just causing delays in this region but really up and down the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington D.C. So many of our problems is we have a century old bridge that hasn’t gotten the kind of improvements it needs. It’s constantly breaking down,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
Booker couldn’t attend the announcement though he’s spent three years pushing the agenda for a system that carries more than 200,000 passengers daily.
“The Port Authority board will meet next Thursday. I expect action will be taken at that board meeting with respect to Gateway that have the full throated endorsement of both Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo of New York and Gov. [Chris] Christie of New Jersey,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye.
“We’re not looking at as if it’s some future project that’s absolutely necessary and we need to do it. We are doing it. We turned the hourglass over. We are building this project. There is no going back,” said Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia.
If all goes as planned, and the emphasis today is that it will, the tunnel construction will begin in 2019. It’ll take four to five years to complete and once it’s up and running, officials expect to go back and make repairs to the existing tunnels, doubling capacity to the region.