Transportation Secretary and New Jersey Officials Meet to Discuss Hudson River Rail Tunnels

The transportation secretary had asked for the meeting with Mr. Christie after a series of major delays last month brought attention to the deteriorating century-old tunnels that run between New York and New Jersey. There were further delays on Monday after a New Jersey Transit train broke down in one of the tunnels.

There was a growing sense of optimism on Tuesday among officials that the project would advance, according to an official who attended the gathering. Another official said that attendees left the meeting with specific assignments or tasks to move the plans forward. The two officials asked not to be identified because they discussed the meeting beyond what was agreed to in the joint statement.

In 2010, Mr. Christie, a Republican who is running for president, canceled a plan to build new tunnels under the river, citing concerns that his state would be responsible for cost overruns. He has said recently that he supports building new tunnels, but that the federal government must provide a major share of the funding.

Asked how important the issue was to him as he left Mr. Booker’s office on Tuesday, Mr. Christie indicated that his presence at the meeting conveyed his commitment. “I showed up today, right?” he told reporters.

Mr. Foxx has called the Gateway Project one of the most important transportation projects in the country. In recent weeks, his agency has been vague about how the federal government might help pay for the project; a letter from Mr. Foxx to Mr. Christie and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York referred to “federal financial assistance” and “federal financing tools.”

Mr. Cuomo had said that Mr. Foxx intended to offer only loans, and refused to meet unless federal officials offered grants — something the joint statement seemed to address.

On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo said he strongly supported building new tunnels and was prepared to “expedite any and all state processes to move this project forward.”

“It appears all parties are on the same page: The key to moving forward is obtaining federal grant support for the project,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

After Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, received some criticism on Tuesday for not being at the meeting, Mr. Booker’s office confirmed that the governor was not invited, nor were other New York officials, because the meeting was for New Jersey stakeholders. Mr. Booker, who organized the meeting, has been in “constant communication” with Mr. Cuomo, his office said.

Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, also a Democrat, proposed creating a nonprofit corporation to oversee the project, which he estimated would cost more than $20 billion. On Tuesday, he called the meeting in Newark “a very promising step forward,” and reiterated that the nonprofit corporation would be the best way to bring together federal funding.

The current tunnels, which are owned by Amtrak, were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak officials say that they must be closed for repairs, but that limiting trains to one tunnel would cause major delays for the region.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in on the project on Tuesday, saying that new tunnels were important for the region and endorsing Mr. Schumer’s proposal.

“For folks to the west of the Hudson, there’s just not enough access to the city,” he told reporters. “That’s holding back New Jersey. That’s also holding back New York.”

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