There is new hope Thursday for the Gateway Project to build a much-needed additional rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River to be used by both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit along the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest.
As part of a new spending package to keep the government running past Friday, Congressional lawmakers have agreed to more than half a billion dollars for the project.
President Donald Trump has opposed the new tunnel that supporters say are desperately needed to to keep train running amid an aging infrastructure, in part because it is a top priority of Senate Minority Leader Senator Charles Schumer.
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“People in New York are very happy with the results we achieved,” Schumer said Thursday.
A smiling Schumer announced that he got key Republicans to agree to put the money in the budget to jump start the project. While the $500 million commitment is less than 5 percent of the $11 billion tunnel price tag, Schumer praised the agreement.
“We provided a reliable pathway for one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country,” he said.
Last month, an Eyewitness News investigation showed exclusively how the existing 107-year-old tunnel is crumbling due to its age and damage from Superstorm Sandy.
“Every day, salt and chlorides left behind are eating away at the tunnel walls and infrastructure protecting high voltage cables,” Amtrak’s Craig Schultz said.
Amtrak knows the time is coming, soon perhaps, when patching the crumbling concrete won’t be enough.
“It’s that urgent,” Schultz said. “Every day that we don’t begin construction on a new tunnel, we increase the risk of an infrastructure failure on the old one.”
Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy have committed to picking up half of the $11 billion price tag. The commitment from Congress keeps the project alive, but barely.
“One big step, with a lot more that needs to come,” Murphy said. “But we need the federal government to be a full partner in this project. But a big step in the right direction.”
Construction of the estimated $11 billion tunnel is planned for next year. Under the current spending bill, they also can compete for $2.9 billion in federal grants for the project.
Amtrak also praised the appropriations bill.
“Amtrak applauds Congress for providing increased funding for intercity passenger rail, including grants to Amtrak, in the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. “Amtrak thanks Congress for recognizing the importance of intercity passenger rail and the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The increased NEC capital funding will allow us to address many important needs along the Corridor and we look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation on investing these funds to advance the most critical projects.”