Christie says Gateway Tunnel faces no delays despite lack of dollars in Trump budget

TRENTON  -- Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday professed "confidence" that the proposed Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River will proceed without delays, even though President Trump's most recent budget eliminated a crucial source of funding for it.

"I had a very good conversation last week with (U.S. Transportation) Secretary (Elaine) Chao, said Christie, speaking to reporters at the groundbreaking of renovations at Newark's Liberty International Airport on Tuesday.

"I absolutely believe that we will be partnering with the federal government and the state of New York to build a Gateway Tunnel and that there won't be any delays of our current time frame."

Trump's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 limits funding to the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Program to projects with contracts already in place. The Gateway Tunnel is not one of them.

The pair of North River Tunnels that carry Amtrak and New Jersey Transit rail lines under the Hudson River between Weehawken and New York's Penn Station are more than 100 years old, and will need to be taken out of service in the next decade for safety reasons.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker warned Chao that the loss of one of them "would literally cause a traffic Armageddon in the region."

Chao, in turn, reassured Booker that the Gateway project remained "an absolute priority" for the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, Christie said he had "confidence"  that the secretary and the president "are going to make that happen."

"We've already committed the money from the New Jersey perspective," said Christie, before adding that funding might ultimately come not just from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but from "other partners in the private sector, too."

Amtrak's $24 billion Gateway Program could potentially use a public-private partnership model to build and finance portions of the tunnel.

An overhaul of Amtrak-owned tracks and switches leading into New York's Penn Station is about to get underway next month.

Christie last month negotiated $15 million worth of fare reductions for NJ Transit commuters who will experience significant delays as a result of the repairs.

In 2010, the governor cancelled the so-called ARC, or Access to the Region's Core, tunnel out of concerns that the project was ill-conceived and exposed New Jersey to virtually unlimited cost overruns.

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