Category Archives: New York City

Regional Plan Association rail overhaul dead without Gateway Project

https://www.lohud.com/news/

The Regional Plan Association’s massive overhaul plan of the area’s commuter rail system is stillborn without the $13 billion Gateway Project, the organization says.

The ambitious plan that would provide Rockland a one-seat ride in Manhattan and the same from White Plains to downtown Brooklyn was one of the most notable recommendations in the RPA’s latest regional plan. Much of the first phase counts on Gateway’s new rail infrastructure, new Hudson River tunnel and existing tunnel rehabilitation.

But federal funding for that project is now in doubt. And without that money, the outlook is grim.

“It doesn’t happen,” RPA Senior Vice President and Chief Planner Chris Jones said in an editorial board meeting with the Journal News/lohud Thursday morning.

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‘The Plan Is Not Set In Stone…but It’s a Good Plan,’ the City Said of L Train Shutdown Mitigation

Bushwick Daily

The MTA hosted the first of four open forums on the L train shutdown Wednesday night at a high school in East Williamsburg, addressing the public’s questions and concerns about that nasty L train shutdown in the not-so-distant future.

While the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the MTA released a mitigation plan last December, “the plan is not yet set in stone…but it’s a good plan,” NYC Transit president Andy Byford said in a statement recorded by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

MTA’s mitigation strategy breaks down (no pun intended) into three categories: subway service, the Williamsburg Bridge, and street design. But it won’t be easy, according to officials.

“Closing it [L train] down for 15 months is going to be very difficult,” said Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York congresswoman who reps Williamsburg and parts of Manhattan’s East Side.

As she stood beside Byford on Wednesday, Maloney touted the success of the new Second Avenue Subway as an example of the good things MTA can do, saying that while construction was “painful,” it is now “the best subway in the whole country.”

“Modern, airy, quiet, art — you name it,” the congresswoman said. “And we want the L train to be even better.”

Three more forums will be held through this month and next, giving the public a chance to learn more about the city’s plan for the April 2019 shutdown that will inconvenience around 225,000 riders.

NY-NJ port grapples with rail delays

In a missive to port users outlining the problem, the port said it is working with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway to clear the rail backlog.

Well! It is about time to admit a problem.

In a recent WebPage, we have been careful not to include the Port of New York & New Jersey in our planning. HERE IS WHY.

A New Hudson Bridge, Revived Beacon Line, HYPERLOOP and More

Cuomo’s Congestion Pricing Plan Actually Isn’t Half-Bad

The Village Voice

The “Fix NYC” plan could actually fix NYC’s traffic and transit woes, go figure

All cars entering lower Manhattan would be charged $11.52 a day under Governor Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan.

It’s been three months since Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a panel to come up with a congestion pricing plan to, as the panel was named, Fix NYC. That report came out today and it’s…good? I know, I’m just as surprised as you!

Meet the new proposed congestion charge, pretty much the same as the old proposed congestion charge

It would cost $11.52 a day for cars to drive into Manhattan south of 60th Street, otherwise known as the Central Business District (CBD), Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. That was the same proposal Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a decade ago — although the daily charge was then to be split up between $5.76 outbound and inbound charges — as part of the Move NY Plan, and it’s the core of Cuomo’s proposal now. Taxis, for-hire vehicles (more on them momentarily), and buses would be exempted. So, too, would trips along the FDR Drive that exit north of 60th Street — such as, for example, an SUV that drives from Gracie Mansion to Park Slope via FDR Drive and the Brooklyn Bridge every day.

In total, the fees, which would be charged via a combination of E-ZPass and license plate readers, would generate between $810 million and $1.1 billion annually while reducing congestion by 8 to 13 percent. That may not sound like much, but taking one out of every ten cars off the road makes a very big difference in getting traffic moving.

There are some minor differences in Cuomo’s plan, though. For one, the new proposal suggests charging trucks $25.34, or 2.2 times as much as cars, as trucks account for an outsize share of congestion and currently pay, wait for it, 2.2 times higher tolls on city bridges. The plan hopes this will encourage truck drivers to make deliveries during off-peak hours; it also calls for the congestion pricing for trucks to begin in 2020 as a kind of trial phase, before charges for cars follow a few months later.

A focus on for-hire vehicles
One of the biggest differences between the Fix NYC proposal and Mayor Bloomberg’s failed plan a decade ago is the emphasis on for-hire vehicles, since Uber and Lyft didn’t exist in 2008. As the report notes, for-hire vehicles now represent more than half of all vehicles in the CBD on weekday afternoons. To address that, rather than subjecting them to the congestion price, which would do little to disincentivize them since it would be a flat daily rate, it proposes a larger zone — up to 96th Street — for an FHV surcharge of between $2 and $5 per ride, with additional fees for time they’re in the zone without a passenger. In all, the surcharge could raise between $155 million and $605 million annually, depending on which pricing scheme is adopted.

The clever bit is where that money goes. The panel suggests this revenue be used to plug one of the big open questions facing the subway: Who’ll fund the MTA’s $836 million Subway Action Plan to repair and modernize the system? Currently, the state has committed to fund half, but de Blasio has refused to fund the city’s proposed share. The MTA’s only other funding options are to raise fares or borrow, and the MTA has already borrowed enough.

Another clever aspect of the FHV charge is a “significantly reduced” surcharge for pooled trips, such as UberPool and Lyft Line. Not only will this likely help reduce congestion by increasing occupancy rates, it will help get Uber and Lyft on board since pooled rides, if they have multiple people in them, are far more profitable.

A phased approach
Rather than implement everything at once, the report calls for a phased approach, which seems “essential” to making the plan work.

The first phase, beginning this year, would be fairly modest, requiring a full review of the city’s parking placard system — which in effect bestows upon more than 100,000 people, mostly city employees and politicians, a waiver to park wherever they want for free — increased (or any) enforcement of traffic laws such as blocking the box or parking in bus lanes, and changes to various MTA funding structures to more directly provide a guaranteed source of revenue. You know, things that should have been done a long time ago.

The second phase, starting in 2019, would implement the above FHV surcharges. And the third phase, targeted for 2020, would see the congestion pricing introduced, first to trucks as a kind of trial phase, then to cars as well, as soon as the L train comes back into service.

While this timeline sounds fine, it would require the MTA to get cracking on the congestion charge technology before the legislature is likely to approve it. Two years of lead time seems awfully tight. For example, it took London two years to implement its congestion charge even though the mayor had unilateral authority to order it.

This is about much more than congestion pricing
As the name of the panel suggests, this report is a wide-ranging review of how to make transportation in New York City better and how to fund it. For example, the panel calls for the existing Payroll Mobility Tax, introduced in 2009, to be dedicated to the MTA without needing annual state legislative approval. It also supports Cuomo’s proposal to allow the MTA to collect real estate taxes from development that benefits from mass transit expansion, such as the Second Avenue Subway. Then there are the placard, bus, and traffic enforcement proposals mentioned above. This is, fundamentally, a plan to make getting around New York City bearable.

Is the range of options a feature or a bug?

As Cuomo promised, the proposal is a slate of recommendations rather than one take-it-or-leave-it plan. The report outlines several possible charging schemes for pretty much every one of its ideas. And nothing says the whole plan has to be adopted; it’s easy to envision, for example, the placard review somehow getting lost in the shuffle. Maybe we just end up with an FHV surcharge and a bitter fight with Uber and Lyft.

Or, perhaps the flexibility allows for political horse-trading in Albany in order for the plan to pass. It’s still too early to say, but at the very least, it’s a plan every New Yorker — even the ones who drive and will therefore enjoy less traffic — should get excited about.

HELP! “Virgin Hyperloop One”, NY City Needs A HYPERLOOP

Special Guest Editorial by KEN KINLOCK

Yes, NY CITY needs a HYPERLOOP to reach Stewart International Airport. Not a long Hyperloop: only 6O+ miles.

Stewart International Airport is outside the City on the West bank of the Hudson River. It is the “4th New York City Airport”. In the Winter it is less likely to shut for snow or ice.


It has absolutely the longest runways in town…as seen by an A380 landing in a snow storm recently.

But once a plane lands, what do you do with the passengers? Send them to downtown New York on a Short Line bus? Get them across the river and load them on a Metro-North train in Beacon? Send them through New Jersey Transit rail? The “correct” answer is build a HYPERLOOP right to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They can go anywhere in the City from there.

So what do I know about Hyperloop? I helped design one in 2016 for Hyperloop One between Louisville, Kentucky and Gary, Indiana (then to Chicago on the South Shore Railroad).

What do I know about building airports? Nothing! So I turned to industry experts and read what they wrote.

Max Hirsh (PhD, Harvard) is a professor at the University of Hong Kong and a leading expert on airports, migration, and transport infrastructure. He is the author of Airport Urbanism: an unprecedented study of air travel and global migration patterns that incorporates the perspective of passengers, airport designers, and aviation executives.

Steve Carden
Technology & Innovation Leader, PA Consulting Group. Author of “Hyperloop’s Role In Greening The Transportation Grid”.

The bottom line is you need more than a Diet Coke machine and a little shop that sells tchotchkes.

Cuomo Pushes for NYC Funding for Subway Repairs, Congestion Pricing

The Observer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is renewing pressure on New York City to fund its half of the short-term plan to fix the city’s subway system and has included his long-anticipated congestion pricing proposal in the latest state budget.

At his fiscal year 2019 executive budget address on Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo discussed the subway action plan unveiled by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota in July. Lhota has proposed that the state and the city split the cost of the $836 million short-term plan to fund subway repairs.

The governor said the state will provide $254 million in operating aid to fully fund its half of the cost using $194 million in previously unallocated monetary settlements and the accelerated transfer of Payroll Mobility Tax revenue to the MTA by eliminating the need for the $60 million annual appropriation. The financial plan also includes $175 million in new capital funding for the MTA.

“We’ve said it should be split 50/50 New York State/New York City,” he said. “We have funded it 50 percent. New York City needs to fund it 50 percent. That’s the short-term.”

This week, he plans to present his congestion pricing proposal: the long-awaited report by the “Fix NYC” panel Cuomo convened to advise the state on proposals to create a dedicated funding stream to mass transit and reduce traffic on city streets.

The report will address defining a geographic “pricing zone,” installing technology around the zone and coming up with fees and hours. The report, Cuomo said, suggests flexible and variable options and prices for different hours and for yellow cars, black cars, green cars, Uber, Lyft, trucks and passenger cars.

“My point is it has to be fair to all people in all industries,” Cuomo continued. “You have yellow cars, now black cars, green cars, blue cars, purple cars—they all have to be treated the same. I don’t want anyone saying they had a competitive advantage or this advantage because we put a surcharge on one versus the other.”

He noted the state currently collects and doles out the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA. The executive budget proposes changing the state law so the revenue is directly appropriated to the agency.

“For the MTA, currently the state collects what’s called a Payroll Mobility Tax, which is $1.6 billion,” the governor added. “We would change the law so the MTA collects that tax itself, it now has a dedicated funding stream, it can securitize it, it can get a better credit rating from it, it can finance the installation of the Fix New York City Technology, the Penn renovation, etc.”

De Blasio, for his part, told NY1’s Errol Louis he agreed with Cuomo’s approach to handling President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan signed into law before Christmas—an approach that includes suing the Trump administration. But he expressed disagreement with Cuomo’s approach to dealing with the MTA.

“I disagree on its face with some of the assumptions in his budget address when it comes to the MTA,” he said. “The state of New York took $456 million of the MTA’s budget. They need to put that money back.”

And he maintained his proposed millionaires tax on wealthy New Yorkers to fund subway repairs and reduced subway fares for low-income New Yorkers is the best way to solve the long-term issues afflicting the city’s subway system.

He maintained that well-off people, including in states like New York, will do better because of Trump’s tax plan and that others may “do less well.” But he argued that even if millionaires and billionaires do “about the same or a little worse,” they still pay “so much less than they should” in terms of their share of taxes.

“Remember when [there] was the high water mark of taxing millionaires and billionaires in this country?” de Blasio continued. “During the Dwight Eisenhower administration. And by the way, that was one of the times when the economy was inclusive and functional. So any way you slice it, the millionaires and billionaires of this state can afford to pay more. It’s the best and most reliable way to fund the MTA going forward.”

As to the news of Cuomo inching closer to unveiling his congestion pricing proposal and what impact it has on his own plan to tackle congestion in the city, de Blasio said he is “beginning to see something” and wants to analyze the plan once it is fully presented.

“What I’ve said is look, ‘I’ll look at any plan and certainly one to reduce congestion in the city, but I wanna make sure it’s fair,’” he added. “Some of the proposals we’ve seen in the past, I think, were not fair, were not balanced in terms of the economic impact they’d have on different people, and particularly on people from Brooklyn and Queens. I’ll look at anything.”

He insisted it does not threaten the validity of his millionaires tax proposal because the city will need a “substantial amount of reliable resources to fix the MTA.”

“I think the ways we address congestion take many forms, including some of the things that we’re talking about,” the mayor said. “For example, banning truck deliveries in certain routes during rush hour so you don’t have a ton of doubled parked trucks right where people are trying to go at the most sensitive time of the day. So we’re going to look at different pieces of what the governor’s put forward, but we’re going to keep working to reduce congestion with our own tools as well.”

Report Says New York City Buses Are the Slowest in the Nation

The Observer

New York City has the slowest buses of any big city in the United States, according to an analysis unveiled by Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday morning.

The average New York City Transit bus travels 7.4 miles per hour along its local, Select Bus Service and express routes—the slowest of the 17 largest bus companies in the country, the report found. The typical city bus spends only half of its time in motion or in traffic, with another 21 percent spent at red lights and 22 percent at bus stops.

Average bus speeds differ significantly among the five boroughs, with the slowest average speeds in Manhattan, at 5.5 miles per hour; Brooklyn, at 6.3 miles per hour; and the Bronx, at 6.5 miles per hour, Stringer said. This is substantially lower than local routes in Queens, at 8.1 miles per hour, and Staten Island, at 11.4 miles per hour.

“New York City now has the slowest buses of any big city in America,” Stringer said at a press conference in Midtown Manhattan. “Routes are unreliable, congested… Many of them were designed more than a half-century ago, and over the past 20 years our economy has evolved, but our bus system has not.”

The comptroller noted that the MTA has lost 100 million passenger trips in the last eight years. The decrease in ridership has mainly been concentrated in Manhattan, down 16 percent since 2011, and Brooklyn, where ridership dropped by 4 percent.

Lower-income and immigrant New Yorkers are particularly hurt by the lack of service, he said.

The average personal income of bus commuters is $28,455—much lower than that of subway commuters, at $40,000, and employed New Yorkers overall, at $38,840, according to the report. And 55 percent of bus commuters are foreign-born and 75 percent are people of color, which is substantially higher than subway commuters and New Yorkers in general.

Stringer also said that a fractured management structure has adversely affected the bus system, which is managed by two agencies: the NYC Transit Bus and the MTA Bus Company. He argued that both the MTA and the city Department of Transportation have struggled to implement new technologies and core amenities.

There are only 104 miles of dedicated bus lanes along the city’s 6,000 miles of roadway, a ratio much lower than the share of bus lanes in other cities like Brussels, Barcelona, Dublin, Seattle, Lisbon and the country of Singapore.

The Transit Signal Priority, a technology that enables MTA buses to communicate with DOT traffic lights to extend a green light or shorten a red light at an approaching intersection, is active at 260 intersections along five of the city’s 326 bus routes, the report found. In London and Los Angeles, it has been installed at 3,200 and 654 intersections, respectively. Brussels, Dublin, Barcelona, Seattle, Montreal, Sydney and Zurich have a much higher percentage of traffic signals as well.

Stringer noted that the DOT will finish the year with only 15 of the 20 SBS routes it planned to carry out by the end of 2017 and that the routes have experienced a ridership decline and slow speeds. And of the more than 15,000 bus stops across the five boroughs, only 3,364 have shelters.

The comptroller offers 19 recommendations for the MTA, including adopting “a more rapid, direct and grid-like bus network,” upgrading to battery-electric buses, and building more bus terminals with help from the city. He also urged the DOT to take a more proactive role in redesigning the MTA bus network and recommended that the MTA introduce all-door boarding to reduce time spent at bus stops.

The MTA said much outer borough bus ridership has transferred to subways due to new populations that are increasingly traveling to Manhattan for work and leisure and that NYC Transit and MTA Bus operations, planning, and customer service are unified at the management level.

The agency pointed out that the current fleet of buses are the most reliable and advanced in recent history and that it received 277 new buses in 2017 as part of its 2015-2019 capital program. It is slated to receive another 1,700 as part of the program.

The MTA said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota supports congestion pricing and that city government is responsible for most factors that impact bus performance.

“The proper and progressive way to deal with the scourge of traffic is for everyone to support a responsible congestion pricing plan,” Lhota said in a statement. “Traffic congestion is keeping the most reliable and advanced bus fleet in recent history from moving as efficiently as it can and should.”

The DOT said it was surprised that a few recent and major developments were not mentioned in the report, including a plan Mayor Bill de Blasio launched last month to expand SBS to 500,000 more bus riders.

The de Blasio administration, the agency said, doubled the previous rate of SBS implementation, announced an expansion of the Transit Signal Priority in July, and has worked to create new dedicated bus lanes on critical corridors.

Gloria Chin, a DOT spokeswoman, said that the DOT looks forward to working with Stringer to advance state legislation for additional bus lane cameras. She also stated that adding new bus shelters requires modifying existing contracts and making new city expenditures.

“While we are grateful to get the comptroller’s support for all of these efforts, several of the report’s recommendations will require his office’s assistance,” Chin said in a statement.

Lhota proposed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the mayor split the cost of the $836 million required for the first phase of his plan. Cuomo has committed to funding half of the first phase but the mayor says that there is funding available in the state budget. The MTA is a state-run agency.

De Blasio has proposed a millionaires tax to fund subway repairs while Cuomo is drafting a congestion pricing proposal. The mayor, who launched a five-point plan to fight congestion in the city at the end of October, said Albany has not put forward a plan.

Last week, the MTA announced that Andy Byford, the current CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, will lead NYC Transit and carry out Lhota’s subway plan.

Stringer supports congestion pricing, the millionaires tax, and a $3.5 billion transportation bond act to finance state transportation projects that would set aside 60 percent of the funds.

He has not yet spoken with Byford but spoke with Lhota on Sunday night. He supports Lhota’s plan and believes the city should contribute to it.

“I now want to extend his strategy to our buses,” Stringer said.

Manhattan Gridlock: Plan to Relieve It & Impact On Transit Debt

Bumper-to bumper, horn-honking traffic through Manhattan streets is about as New York as bagels and Broadway. A plan to ease that problem is tapping into another mainstay of city life: high driving tolls.

The idea, called “congestion pricing,” involves using electronic tolling technology to charge fees to vehicles entering the most heavily trafficked parts of town during certain hours.

Some big cities already do it, including Singapore, Stockholm and London, where it can cost more than $15 to drive into the city center during peak periods.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed it for New York a decade ago and got a firm rejection from lawmakers who said drivers headed into Manhattan already get slammed enough by bridge and highway tolls and high parking fees.

But with the city’s subway system deteriorating, and politicians looking for ways to pay for a fix, the concept has gotten new life.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who said last summer that “congestion pricing” is an idea whose time has come, could unveil a plan to implement a system as early as next week. A spokesman for the governor said a committee, called FixNY, is finalizing recommendations.

Alex Matthiessen, director of the MoveNY campaign — the most vocal advocate for congestion pricing — says New York would become the first city in the United States to charge drivers under such a system, but said others like San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are paying close attention.

“We have a full-blown crisis,” Matthiessen said. “Our subway system is severely underfunded; it is quite unreliable, there are delays and overcrowding and the situation is potentially dangerous. No other idea has the twin benefit of also tackling a very severe traffic problem.”

There are still plenty of roadblocks.

Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he likes the idea of getting cars off the street but isn’t convinced high tolls is the way to do it.

“I think there are serious fairness issues when it comes to congestion pricing,” he said at a recent news conference, citing the financial burden on drivers who can’t afford tolls as easily as the many millionaires who call Manhattan home. De Blasio has said he prefers dealing with the subway’s financial problems by imposing higher income taxes on the rich.

Key details, like how much it might cost, or where, exactly, drivers might get hit with the tolls have yet to be unveiled. Bloomberg’s plan would have charged $8 to drive south of 60th Street, or roughly the southern end of Central Park.

Adam Glassman, a Lynbrook, Long Island-based attorney, spoke in midtown Manhattan before getting into his car to go home.

“It is impossible to get into the city,” said Glassman, who is familiar with Bloomberg’s proposed plan years ago. He commutes into Manhattan twice a week.

He’s in favor of possible tolls. “I’d be willing to suck it up.”

Although no specific congestion pricing plan has been formally announced, many agree that any system would be likely to create surcharges for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. That’s OK with Uber, which is behind a public relations campaign backing congestion pricing.

“Users of Manhattan’s congested roads should bear part of the cost of helping to reduce congestion and improve our public transit system,” said Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang. “Everyone should pay their fair share to keep New York City moving forward.”

Brooklyn state Assemblyman William Colton, a Democrat, said any proposals that would create tolls across bridges into Manhattan that are currently free, or a system that would ping drivers in areas like Times Square south through Greenwich Village and into the Wall Street business district, would be seen as an unfair tax by his constituents.

“This is going to have a negative effect on working people, small business people and seniors who have medical appointments in Manhattan,” Colton said. “This is going to be a big problem. I don’t know the details, but I’m very leery.”

Commuter Joe Murphy said he would be “absolutely opposed to it.”

He lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and already pays for the George Washington Bridge, where tolls range from $10.50 to $15 a car, plus a midtown Manhattan parking garage. His half-hour, pre-rush hour commute is the fastest and easiest option for him; using public transportation would triple his commuting time.

“Just to get to work, the cost of parking and tolls and everything is just astronomical,” he said.

Extension of #1 Line ‘Wishful Thinking’

Tribeca Trib

The extension of the NYC Transit #1 subway line from the Rector Street station to Red Hook for $3.5 billion (a tunnel and three new stations) as proposed in 2016 by Senior VP of AECOM Engineering firm Chris Ward and now supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2018 State of the State speech is wishful thinking.

This subway extension would support a proposed Red Hook economic development project. It would be similar in size and scope to Battery City Park in Manhattan. Was this $3.5 billion figure written on the back of a napkin?

Cuomo wants the MTA to conduct and pay for a planning feasibility study. There would still be the need for environmental documents or preliminary design and engineering followed by final design and engineering efforts and identification of billions for construction funding.

All of the above is necessary to validate any basic estimates for construction costs.

Given the narrow streets and dense development, who could find a staging area for mobilization of contractor employees, equipment and materials to support construction? Imagine trying to assemble a tunnel boring machine at Rector Street adjacent to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. What about removal of debris once excavation begins? Hundreds of trucks needed on a daily basis to remove rock and soil would be challenging.

It cost $4.5 billion for Phase 1 Second Avenue subway (36 blocks & 3 stations) & $2.4 billion (18 blocks & 1 station) for #7 Hudson Yards subway extension. Neither required a multi-billion tunnel under the East River. Construction of new subway stations average between $500 million up to $1 billion, depending upon location and complexity of work. All three new subway stations would require compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). This includes expensive elevators and other features.

Is there a political quid pro quo in the form of campaign donations between developers, construction contractors and unions who support this project and Cuomo?

Trump Administration Kills Gateway Tunnel Deal

California Rail News

Feds declare agreement to share massive project’s costs with NY and NJ “nonexistent”

President Donald Trump dropped his own New Year’s ball—in the form of a wrecking ball—with a late Friday afternoon announcement that effectively wipes out plans for perhaps the nation’s most crucial infrastructure project.

The president officially scrapped his predecessor’s proposal to have the federal government underwrite half the cost of a multibillion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the U.S. The lone existing tunnel is rapidly deteriorating, threatening to sever Amtrak’s popular Northeast Corridor route and to divert tens of thousands of New Jerseyans from their daily Manhattan commutes via NJ Transit.

The administration released the news on the cusp of a holiday weekend in a letter from a top Federal Transit Administration official to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie, who had agreed with the Obama administration to split the project’s costs 50-50.

President Barack Obama’s Department of Transportation, which encompasses the FTA, had consented to that framework with Christie, Cuomo, now-Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker in 2015.

Friday’s letter, in response to an updated proposal by the two states to fund their half of the plan with federal loans, declared the deal null and void.

“Your letter also references a nonexistent ’50-50′ agreement between USDOT, New York and New Jersey. There is no such agreement,” wrote FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “We consider it unhelpful to reference a nonexistent ‘agreement’ rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where nine out of 10 passengers are local transit riders.”

When Crain’s inquired if that meant DOT regards the 2015 plan as not having standing, a spokesperson replied, simply, “correct.”

The news left advocates for Gateway apoplectic.

“Let’s not be surprised by the timing of this letter,” said Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association. “Today is the last day to slip this in with no one noticing. The Trump administration is content to kick the can down the road on Gateway.”

The letter marks the latest blow to the project, which includes the new tube under the Hudson River, repairs to the atrophied existing dual-tunnel conduit and the reconstruction of New Jersey’s troubled Portal Bridge. The Trump administration undermined the endeavor earlier this month by mocking the New York–New Jersey proposal to have the Gateway Development Corp. borrow money through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program, even though the states would repay the loan.

Williams’ letter Friday echoed USDOT’s earlier assertion that this proposal has Washington funding the majority of the project—a declaration that stunned many observers, who noted that states frequently finance major infrastructure undertakings by borrowing money from the federal government.

Sources have previously suggested to Crain’s that the president’s handling of the project has political overtones, as its greatest champion has been Schumer, the most powerful Democrat in Washington.

Trump has repeatedly hyped an infrastructure plan that he has promised to release in the New Year. Such a plan would require a large number of votes from Schumer’s conference in order to pass the Senate. Folding Gateway into a Trump infrastructure bill would pressure Schumer to deliver those votes. Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which could increase the White House’s leverage.

“The best-case scenario now is that discreet pieces of the project move forward individually, like the remaining portion of the tunnel box under the Hudson Yards and the new Portal Bridge,” Wright said. “And meanwhile, commuting under the Hudson River will continue to become more difficult and that will increase the pressure on Congress to act.”

A spokesman for the multi-agency development corporation formed to execute the project downplayed Friday’s letter.

“There is no more urgent infrastructure project than Gateway, and posturing aside, we are confident that the Trump administration will engage with us as the president turns to infrastructure in 2018,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Although the Trump administration has taken to calling Gateway a “local” project, it is considered integral to the future of a regional economy that provides a hefty chunk of the nation’s gross domestic product and sends hundreds of billions of tax dollars to Washington each year.

New York business leaders have emphasized the project’s importance, but the dismissive federal response has underscored just how little sway they have with the Trump administration.

Ironically, the area of strongest agreement between Democrats and Trump has been the need for infrastructure improvements, and the president has touted a forthcoming $1 trillion plan. However, he is counting on nonfederal sources including private investors to contribute 80% of the money. That is likely to be a source of tension with Democrats.

Public-private partnerships have built transportation projects around the world but not on a large scale in the U.S. They typically rely on user fees to repay investors.

An earlier effort to build a second train tunnel under the Hudson River, known as the ARC project, was terminated in 2010 by Christie, who now finds himself on the receiving end of such a rejection. Federal funds set aside for ARC were then redirected to projects in other states.

Update:

On Saturday a senior administration official told Crain’s that the Department of Transportation regards the framework deal between the Obama administration and the states as a nonbinding, politically motivated public relations maneuver by then–Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The official asserted that the federal government had no right to announce its commitment to any financing plan because the states had not submitted a formal application for funding. The official said the department recognizes the project’s importance and is open to an arrangement for underwriting it that does not count a federal loan repaid by the states toward the local contribution.

The official also highlighted such multibillion-dollar projects now underway as the Honolulu Light Rail and the Maryland Purple Line, for which federal loans made up only a small proportion of the capital investment.

Those projects, however, do not serve regions as integral to the U.S. economy as the Hudson River tunnel. Nor do they serve more than one state. And the $9.5 billion Honolulu undertaking, which as of August had received $800 million of a $1.5 billion federal funding package, has run into serious problems including a nearly $3 billion deficit. Experts question the benefit it would have for Honolulu, let alone the nation, should Hawaii manage to finish it.

Maryland’s $2.4 billion Purple Line, for which a $900 million federal grant was approved, is a state project and much smaller than Gateway, which could end up costing 10 times as much. The Maryland project also received an $875 million federal loan.