Gateway Tunnel construction could start in 2023, officials say

Published: Nov. 16, 2021

Federal financing to build the $11.6 billion Gateway rail tunnel under the Hudson River could be in place by the end of 2022, with construction possibly starting 2023, said officials of the bistate agency tasked with building it.

“It’s been an incredible few months and a productive year with the Biden administration moving it forward,” said Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Gateway Development Corporation co-chairwoman. “We are looking to enter into engineering next year and hope to get a (federal) full funding grant by December and a summer of 2023 start.”

She made the remarks after a Tuesday meeting of the GDC where officials outlined various federal grant sources made available by the Biden administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed on Monday. The cost stands at $9.8 billion for new tunnel construction, and $1.8 billion to rehabilitate the old tunnels, for a grand total of $11.6 billion.

Construction of new tunnels and rehabilitation of the existing tunnels is estimated to be completed in 2035, said Frank Sacr, GDC Interim Executive Director.

But missing until a later phase of the Gateway Project are plans to build a “Penn South” annex at Penn Station that would allow more NJ Transit trains to give passengers a one-seat ride to New York.

That doesn’t mean that the Gateway Tunnel is a slam dunk – officials said the project’s ranking needs to be raised by the Federal Transit Administration to qualify for federal grants.

“We’re under review. We hope it will come next year,” Grewal-Virk said. “We have a great working relationship with the FTA and we’re in constant communication and answering any questions they have.”

The tunnel project had received a low rating under the Trump administration that precluded it from qualifying for federal funding.

Railroad and other infrastructure loans that would comprise New Jersey and New York’s share of the project also need to be applied for an approved.

The states received a boost from changes to those programs that would allow the loans to be paid off over 75 years, considering the lifespan of major railroad infrastructure projects, instead of an original 35-year payback period.

A “letter of interest” to start the application process for an estimated $6 billion in infrastructure loans is being prepared and could be submitted in the next couple of months, Sacr said.

In May, the project to augment and rehabilitate the two 110-year old tunnels with two new ones received a long-awaited environmental approval that will move New York and New Jersey one step closer to building them after a three-year-delay from a promised 2018 date.

The annex to Penn Station will be on hold until after the tunnel is built. It was part of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Empire Station Plan to modernize Penn, but was put off under a slimed down plan announced by current Gov. Kathy Hochul on Nov. 3.

GDC officials said Penn South has “always” been part of the larger Gateway plan to expand train capacity, despite it being put off.

The three agencies that use Penn Station — NJ Transit, Amtrak and New York’s MTA — are still working on a possible station expansion plan and renovation, said NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said.

“Penn Station is part of it, but we have to get the tunnel first,” Corbett said.

A budget has not been firmed up for Gateway phase two projects such as Penn South, he said.

But the back burning of Penn South from the Hochul plan also eliminates much of the addition that would have been funded by real estate developments in Cuomo’s plan, said one transit advocate after the meeting.

“If Hochul’s “Fix NYPenn First” plan happens, Penn South will benefit from only a fraction of the real estate development money originally anticipated,” said Joe Clift, a former Long Island Rail Road planning director. “Who will pay to fill up that big funding hole? When will they pay it, and does that further delay Penn South?”

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction


published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-17 03:38:20 -0800