NJ Transit wants to spend its federal infrastructure money on these projects

Published: Dec. 10, 2021

New Jersey Transit plans to use federal funds it will receive under President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law to build a new Portal South Bridge, replace the Sawtooth Bridges and improve connections to the Northeast Corridor tracks, its top official told a congressional subcommittee on Thursday.

Kevin Corbett, president and chief executive of the state transit agency and co-chair of the Northeast Corridor Commission, outlined those plans before the House transportation railroads subcommittee at a hearing Thursday. The law would provide $4.1 billion for public transportation in New Jersey.

“NJ Transit will be at the forefront of delivering a number of the projects now being prioritized with investments made possible by this landmark legislation,” Corbett said.

Corbett and the subcommittee chair, Rep. Donald Payne Jr., also said that the $1 trillion infrastructure law would unlock federal funding for the 111-year-old Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River. The project would allow the existing tunnel to be closed to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Payne called Gateway “one of the most consequential projects” that the infrastructure law could help fund.

“If the tunnel were to shut down for any reason, it would cost the economy $100 million per day in lost economic output,” said Payne, D-10th Dist.

The next step is for the Federal Transit Administration to revise its rating of the project and make it eligible for federal funding. The rating was lowered under President Donald Trump, who opposed the tunnel and even threatened to shut down the government if Congress voted to fund it.

The agencies involved with the tunnel, NJ Transit, Amtrak, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Gateway Development Commission, submitted a new funding plan in August and are waiting for the Federal Transit Administration to respond.

“We are optimistic about the outcome of our submission,” Corbett said.

Other projects include the Hunter Flyover, which would improve the connection between Raritan Valley Line and the Northeast Corridor, as well as the Midline Loop, which would make it easier for eastbound trains in New Brunswick at the Jersey Avenue Station to move onto the main Northeast Corridor tracks and eliminate backups there.

Corbett also discussed the $117 billion, 15-year, Connect NEC plan 35 that would receive some funding from the infrastructure law. The program would increase daily Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor by a third and reduce travel time by a half-hour for Acela riders between Washington and New York, and between New York and Boston.

“It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of this stretch of transportation infrastructure – not only to the millions of commuter and intercity rail customers who rely on it, but to our national economy,” he said.

The law included $66 billion for rail, including $6 billion for the Northeast Corridor. Those figures include $58 billion for intercity rail, which Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said was about the total amount of federal funding that Amtrak received since the passenger railroad was formed 50 years ago.

Amtrak also has proposed using some of the federal funding for new routes from New York’s Penn Station, including one line through Somerville to Easton and Allentown, Pennsylvania; and another through Newark, Summit, Morristown and Dover en route to Biden’s native Scranton.

“The current Amtrak route network is about the same size, and serves most of the same routes and places, as Amtrak’s route network 50 years ago,” Gardner told the subcommittee.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-11 02:05:41 -0800