Gateway Overseers Say New NYC Rail-Commuter Tunnel Is Inevitable

In 2015, New York and New Jersey agreed to split the project’s estimated $13 billion cost with the federal government. The states have pledged some $6 billion, mostly from federal loans, and were counting on federal grants to cover the remainder. Federal authorities have said loans shouldn’t count as the states’ share.

The $12.7 billion Gateway commuter-rail tunnel opposed by President Donald Trump will get built because it’s too important to the economy, said members of the agency overseeing the project.

Steven Cohen, chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corp., went so far as to predict that federal funds supporting the new tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York would be included in the budget to be soon voted upon by Congress.

“There is a certain inevitability to this project, even if the politics of the president may be lost on me,” Cohen told reporters after meeting with interim Gateway Executive Director John Porcari and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia. “It will happen because this has to happen.”

The officials met Friday in New York, hours after a vital rail bridge broke down, stranding thousands of commuters and travelers. The Portal North Bridge, like the existing Hudson tunnels, is more than 100 years old and was never meant to handle today’s commuter traffic. A new bridge is part of the Gateway project.

The current tunnels, 108 years old, carry 200,000 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers into and out of Manhattan on a typical weekday. Amtrak estimates the tunnels have about 20 more years of life yet.

Gateway officials, at a regular meeting, rebutted assertions by federal transportation officials that the project is primarily to serve local commuters but would be financed almost entirely by the U.S. government. They repeatedly cited an agreement reached between New York and New Jersey to share half the cost. Former President Barack Obama’s administration committed to paying for the other half, a deal Trump has disavowed.

Trump is trying to kill federal funding for Gateway, saying New York and New Jersey must pay more, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said this month.

Regardless of federal officials’ refusal to commit to funding, Porcari said work is moving forward on design of the tunnels, which must be built before the existing ones are repaired. The new Portal Bridge’s design is complete and ready for construction, he said.

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