AASHTO Journal, 21 August 2015
Trying to spur negotiations to build a critical passenger rail tunnel project from New Jersey into downtown New York City, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx met Aug. 18 with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the states two U.S. senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez.
After huddling at Booker’s Newark, N.J., office, the group said in a joint statement the participants had a “substantive and productive meeting” and agreed that “something must be done, and done now” to prepare to build new tunnels that would augment and allow repairs of the two century-old tubes now in use by Amtrak and regional commuter traffic.
“All of us are committed to working together on a path forward on this critical project,” the group said.
Foxx has been working to get leaders of New Jersey and New York to agree on plans for new tunnel capacity at a key segment in the Amtrak Northeast Corridor and for a major commuter system.
The New Jersey officials said they will work with Foxx “to obtain a substantial federal grant contribution toward the Hudson River tunnels. In addition to grants, we will also work on other funding and financing options.”
That statement also said the state of New Jersey supports a major Amtrak tunnel construction plan called the Gateway project “and is committed to developing a framework with the federal government to begin it. We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties. As commuters can attest, we cannot afford further delay.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said it is up to Congress and the federal government to largely cover the estimated $14 billion cost, given the national importance of the project. And Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has proposed creating a nonprofit corporation to bring all the stakeholders together to develop a financing plan.
Cuomo also issued a statement Aug. 18 after Foxx met with the New Jersey leaders, saying “I am excited by the dialogue, and I am encouraged by the positive statement issued following today’s meeting held by Senator Booker for the New Jersey delegation and the federal government. It appears all parties are on the same page: the key to moving forward is obtaining federal grant support for the project.”
The New York governor added: “I think we all recognize the need to make up for years of discussions that did not produce tangible forward progress,” and emphasized his own commitment to improving transportation infrastructure with examples of major projects by his administration.
“In the same vein, I strongly support the construction of the new Hudson River tunnel – and a federal grant package that makes the project viable is an essential first step,” Cuomo said.