By Michael Hill
Martin Robins, Former Director of Planning and Development for the Port Authority of NY/NJ has been advocating for public transportation for more than 40 years.
When asked if he ever thought this day would come Robins laughed, “no.”
The day when the governors of New Jersey and New York would write the president and ask for financial help to build a new commuter tunnel through the Hudson River. One that would relieve the pressure of the century-old, dilapidating tunnels that keep showing signs of the stresses of weather and time, and creating delays and shutdowns.
In their letter, the governors propose that the federal government put up 50 percent of the project and the New Jersey and New York and the Port Authority put up the other half.
The Christie Cuomo letter states: “We are writing jointly in an attempt to move the stalled project forward by putting a funding proposal on the table that we believe is realistic, appropriate and fair: split the responsibility for the cost.”
“Well this has been a long time coming and we’re coming down to the wire with trying to figure out how to fund the gateway project, especially with the condition of the existing rail tunnels after the destruction of superstorm Sandy,” said Janna Chernetz, analyst for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Robins insists the credit should go to Senator Booker, who pushed the parties to meet this summer and move on the project.
“Back in May, the under secretary for policy, USDOT told us that the Obama administration only had 18 months to go and they were begging New York and New Jersey to come forward with a financing plan. When that statement, everybody, there were hundreds of people in the room, nothing happened as a result of that statement. We all said, ‘Oh my God, this is really getting to be a panic time.” But then Cory Booker got involved,” Robins said.
In a statement, Senator Booker said, “People from across the political spectrum on both sides of the Hudson recognize the urgent need to rebuild and expand this critical transportation artery for New Jersey commuters and hundreds of thousands of others who rely on rail transit along the Northeast Corridor every day.
Senator Menendez says, “I remain committed to advancing the Gateway project and securing the necessary federal commitments, and look forward to working with all stakeholders to make this project a reality as soon as possible. New Jerseyans deserve no less.”
Five years ago, Governor Christie killed a tunnel project because he said New York was not paying its fair share. It enraged transportation advocates who say he should have renegotiated instead of reneging.
As it stands now, advocates say it’ll be 2030 or 2035 by the time a new tunnel is completed, when 7-year-old Morgan will be in her mid-20s. Her mother says better late than never.
:Well, we have no choice at this point. This is the best timeline that we have right now,” Chernetz said.
Advocates say the nation relies on the commuter rails through the Hudson tunnels to shuttle thousands of people every day — important not just to the regional, but to the national economy as well.