By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
On Friday, after five years of being stalled, the project to build a second pair of rail tunnels between New York City and New Jersey got the green light from the federal government.
As reported by the NY Times, the $11.6 billion project has been approved for federal funding by the Biden administration. The funding will come from the massive infrastructure bill drawn up by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in congress. “We’re now where we should have been four years ago,” said Steven M. Cohen, co-chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the project. “All of this has been in suspended animation for four years for no reason other than politics and games.”
The Biden administration has shown support for the project as one of the most important large infrastructure projects in the U.S. “This is a big step for the Northeast, and for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs and businesses,” said the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, on Friday in a statement announcing the project’s approval. Still, funding for the project will be difficult, especially if the cost ends up snowballing after the projects initial stages, which usually happens with large transportation endeavors. Both the governors of New York and New Jersey have agreed to share in funding the plans together with the federal government, but both of the governors have elections coming up, so there is no certainty that those commitments will be fulfilled.
The plan is to construct the one-track tunnels, which would carry trains deep under the Hudson River within eight years. The colossal project, known as Gateway, aims to modernize the rail system serving NYC. The current single-track tunnels are over 110 years old and were badly damaged by flooding in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Since then, transportation officials have been concerned about salt remaining in the tunnels, which continues to rot the interior walls and electrical cables, leading to sporadic shutdowns for repairs.
“Not only have we gotten the barriers lifted, but we have also now made sure there is plenty of money in the pipeline,” said majority leader Chuck Schumer. “I’m going to use my clout as majority leader to make sure they go there,” he added, referring to Gateway.
“This approval means a lot of things,’’ said Anthony Coscia, the chairman of Amtrak, “but what it really means is that it’s time to stop talking about this project and it’s time to start building it.”