Hudson River tunnel gains traction

A critical infrastructure project that has been on hold for years is moving up on state officials’ priority list, with Governors Cuomo and Christie seeking to split costs with the federal government.

One month after US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx invited the governors of New York and New Jersey to discuss the Hudson River rail tunnel that is not only aging – it is 105 years old – but was also severely damaged in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, the two governors – Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie – seem willing to work together as evidenced by the letter they jointly addressed to President Barack Obama requesting the federal government assume half of the project’s $20 billion cost.

“As the Governors of New York and New Jersey, we are both committed to funding our fair share of the cost and, at our direction, the jointly operated Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is ready and willing to help,” Cuomo and Christie wrote. “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.”

Asked whether the funding proposal would include private financing, a spokesperson for Governor Christie said, “We’ll let the letter stand right now in terms of any more comments on the project.” He did, however, refer us to one particular paragraph in the letter: “If the federal government will provide grants to pay for half of the cost of the project, the Port Authority, New York and New Jersey will take responsibility for developing a funding plan for the other half, convening all relevant agencies, and utilising the proposed federal low-interest loan, local funding sources, and other funding strategies necessary to complement the federal grant commitment.”

Governor Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Owned and operated by Amtrak, the national passenger rail company, the tunnel connects New Jersey with New York. It is also a vital part of Amtrak’s 457-mile long Northeast Corridor, which spans eight states and the District of Columbia. But like other bi-state projects, one of the sticking points that have prevented it from moving forward is political bickering over which state should pay for it. 

The two state officials,who now seem willing to compromise, also endorsed New York Senator Charles Schumer’s proposal that an entity dedicated to the project – also known as the Gateway Project – be established within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“We should create a Gateway Development Corporation in which all the players – from New York and New Jersey and from Amtrak and the federal government – can get together, plan and design this must-build project and pull down every available source of public and private funding to make it possible,” Schumer had said during a press conference last month referring to the project.

Cuomo and Christie also requested the federal government expedite all environmental and planning approvals and promised to do the same at the state level.