In latest attempt to get a new tunnel built under the Hudson River, officials lower cost of project

Posted Aug 25, 2019

WASHINGTON — In another attempt to obtain long-sought federal funding for the Gateway Tunnel project, New Jersey and New York officials on Friday submitted a new application that would cut costs and ask for less help from the U.S. government.

The states, Amtrak, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey lowered the project’s price tag to $9.5 billion for the new tunnel under the Hudson River and $1.8 billion to repair the existing tubes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. That’s a $1.4 billion reduction in costs.

And the application seeks $4.4 billion in federal Capital Improvement Grant funding, down from $5.6 billion, while Amtrak would increase its share of the costs by $600 million to $1.3 billion to better reflect the number of passengers its trains will carry into Penn Station.

“What we can do is make sure we’re meeting as many of the concerns that are being raised,” Frank Sacr, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corp., said on a conference call with reporters.

The Federal Transit Administration said it would review the revised application, although any decision could be months away.

Gateway officials said they were able to lower costs because they have done enough advance work to know they will have fewer unexpected expenses and therefore will not have to put as much money aside as previously expected. This is because there will be fewer larger contracts designed to attract several bidders which should hold down costs, and because additional funds can be saved by having the same company both design and build the project.

The new application is designed to overcome objections raised by President Donald Trump and his administration after the federal government under President Barack Obama agreed to split the costs with New Jersey and New York.

“We are continuing to do absolutely everything within our power to demonstrate that our states and our partners are 100 percent committed to this project,” said Jerry Zaro, New Jersey trustee and chairman of the Gateway development corporation. "We need the federal administration in Washington to start to recognize those efforts and meet us halfway.”

Trump, who initially appeared to support funding for Gateway, at one point threatened to shut down the federal government rather than allow federal funding for what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “the most vital infrastructure project in the nation.”

Congress has gotten around his opposition by putting hundreds of millions of dollars in budget accounts with the understanding that the funds would be spent on the Gateway project, which also includes a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.

The administration has rejected claims that New Jersey and New York would be covering half the cost since their $5.5 billion would come from federal loan programs that the states would have to pay back. This is despite the fact that Congress specifically passed legislation making it clear that such loans could be used as the local share.

“With hundreds of millions in savings for taxpayers, the strength of this latest financial submission is further proof that the state of New Jersey and its partners are ready to step up and do whatever is in our power to ensure that construction of the Hudson Tunnel project moves forward,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Murphy and Cuomo signed legislation last July to ensure that both states would pay their share of the Gateway costs. The bill said New Jersey would fund its portion from the Transportation Trust Fund, not from a proposed surcharge on NJ Transit fares.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, welcomed the fact that the new application did not include such a surcharge.

“We are pleased that that the governors and the current Gateway commission heard us loud and clear, and that this year’s application for federal funding – unlike past years – does not call for tolls on NJ Transit trains to pay for construction,” she said.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment