Gateway project financing being negotiated between NY, NJ
A look at the two-track railway from Newark Penn Station, NJ to Penn Station, NY February 26, 2020, the 10-mile stretch is part of the Gateway program to transform the two-track railway into a four lanes while replacing and improving infrastructure.
Tania Savayan, Poughkeepsie Journal
New York and New Jersey are expected to share how they plan to fund their parts of the Hudson River tunnel projects by the end of the month, a local planning group supporting the project said.
“We are writing to urge you to quickly identify sources of state funding to support the project’s financial plan – which is expected to be completed by the end of July,” wrote Brian Fritsch, campaign manager for the coalition group. Build Gateway Now, in a letter to governors. . Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy of New York and New Jersey, respectively.
The $ 11.6 billion project, known as the first phase of the Gateway program, would pay for the digging and construction of two new rail tunnels, as well as the repair of old ones, which would double the number of tracks in the Penn New York station currently used by Amtrak, NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road.
“This is something that all parties are working on right now,” said Steve Cohen, co-chair of the Gateway Development Commission, the agency created by the New York and New Jersey state legislatures to oversee the project and receive federal funding.
Clarifying the details of the funding is especially important as the Federal Transit Administration is reviewing the grant rating for this project, which must be given a higher priority rating than its current âmedium-lowâ status to be eligible for a grant.
This could help put the project on an accelerated schedule. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said during a recent visit to the tunnels with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that he hoped construction could begin next year, instead of 2023.
The splits were expected to be around $ 1.75 billion covered by New York and around $ 1.65 billion by New Jersey, a slightly lower amount as New Jersey is spending around $ 811 million for the complementary bridge replacement project. Portal. Amtrak has committed nearly $ 1.3 billion, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority will provide $ 2.15 billion and $ 5.5 billion in federal funds are requested.
“We are confident that with our partners in New York and in the Biden administration, we will be able to reach a fair and equitable funding agreement and begin construction of the most critical and important infrastructure project. of the country, “said Michael Zhadanovsky, a spokesman for the Murphy administration.
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Guidance from states on how they plan to pay their share of the costs could indicate whether an agreement has been reached on the strategy for building new tunnels and rehabilitating old ones.
In recent months, Cuomo said he disagrees with the construction approach of building the new tunnels before making substantial corrections to the 110-year-old railway corridors.
Cuomo believes the old tunnels could be closed overnight for these repairs, a method with which planners from the Federal Railroad Administration, NJ Transit and Amtrak disagree as they say it could significantly disrupt train schedules.
“I’m not going to pay unless it’s an efficient and smart process, period,” Cuomo said at a press conference in May, around the time the Biden administration approved a necessary environmental review.
Cohen, who was appointed to Gateway’s board of directors by Cuomo, said the governor was ready to “proceed as quickly as possible” when asked on Monday if Cuomo planned to hold negotiations on how to divide. the local share or if the governor did not plan on continuing a 50-50 split with New Jersey.
“I have heard this notion many times that the governor is not engaged in the project and I read very carefully what he said and I do not understand why people feel this,” Cohen said. .
âThe point of view is, and always has been, that we should proceed as quickly as possible, we should proceed in a cost-effective manner,â Cohen said, adding âthere is always a caveat and caveat. is to do it smart, to do it effectively, do it in a way that makes sense. “
Meanwhile, as ridership has increased, delays in the tunnel have also increased. Twenty-two days of the first quarter of the year were impacted by delays due to power outages, track problems or other issues that need to be addressed in old tunnels, according to a presentation at the meeting of the Gateway board on Monday. Last year there were 54 days of delay.
âWe live in a world of unacceptable delays and risks,â Cohen said. âAs long as there was a question of whether or not people would go back to travel, to commute in the post-COVID world, I think we now have the resounding answer and it is yes. back to normal but unfortunately that means we are also living with the issues that existed before COVID. “
Colleen Wilson covers Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his work covering the region’s transportation systems and their impact on your travels, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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