Light at the end of the tunnel?

Port Authority advances plans for new train path under river

With Hudson County undergoing the greatest residential development expansion in its history, especially near transportation connections to New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has finally agreed to advance plans to construct a new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The PA Board of Commissioners on Dec. 9 agreed to partner with the federal government in the development of the Gateway Trans-Hudson Tunnel Project by creating a development corporation to oversee the project’s construction.
The Gateway program proposed by Amtrak is estimated to cost $20 billion. It would build two new Hudson River tunnel tubes and several bridges. It will expand Penn Station and add two new tracks between Newark and New York, thus doubling trans-Hudson rail capacity.
The proposal had become a concern for some officials in Jersey City, where new development projects will result in thousands of new units built near transportation hubs like Journal Square. When questioned about the issue in November, Mayor Steven Fulop said he felt confident that the PA would upgrade its facilities to meet the increased demand.

“The Port Authority has been called on many times in its nearly 100-year history to develop and build great projects.” – Port Authority Chairman John Degnan
The Hudson County Board of Freeholders in late November approved a resolution supporting the Gateway Tunnel Project.
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail line in the Western Hemisphere, playing an essential role in the regional economy as a vital link for millions of residents, workers and visitors,” the resolution read. “It is crucial to transporting New Jersey residents, business people and tourists between Washington D.C. and Boston via key regional stations at Philadelphia 30th Street Station, Trenton Transit Center, Newark Airport, Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station.”
The Hudson River tunnels carry 200,000 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit rail passengers in and out of New York each weekday, representing a tripling of ridership since 1990. The Northeast Corridor requires significant repairs and upgrades along the two track stretch between Newark and New York City, with its aging bridges and 100-year-old tunnels under the Hudson River. The current infrastructure, particularly the Hudson River tunnels and the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, causes frequent, extensive delays along the Northeast Corridor.
For the first time in 100 years, the Hudson River tunnels flooded in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy. This left salt eating away at the reinforcing steel, concrete, electrical and signal systems. It has been reported by Amtrak that each of the Hudson River tunnel tubes will need to be closed for a year or more at a time within the next 15 to 20 years for extensive repairs.

Taking up the challenge

In a statement, the PA said its board accepted the challenge from governors Christopher Christie and Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to help oversee construction of a new trans-Hudson rail link.
“The Port Authority has been called on many times in its nearly 100-year history to develop and build great projects,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “Once again, we are asked to take a leading role in one of this generation’s most important transportation project and we accept this responsibility.”
The Gateway Tunnel Project was jumpstarted last month by Governors Cuomo, Christie, U.S. Senators Schumer, and Booker when they reached agreement under which the federal government agreed to fund 50 percent of the project cost. The states of New York and New Jersey would provide the remainder of the funding.

There is some concern

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, who represents Secaucus and Kearny, two areas that could be impacted by the project, said he is cautiously optimistic about the project. He noted that Gov. Christie scuttled construction on the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel four years ago after it had already started. This not only forced the state to pay back millions to the federal government, but also gutted plans for the sale of the Kopper’s Koke property in Kearny that Hudson County had intended to use to offset tax increases at the time.
Although Freeholder Bill O’Dea said the county has since made other arrangements for the development of the Kopper’s Koke property, he expects a portion of the property to be used as a staging area for the new Gateway project. He said the details of the plan, such as the location of the new tunnels, has not yet been determined. The project could use the same location near North Bergen as the original ARC project.
Pascrell said he had been involved in the planning of the ARC tunnel for 15 years and was upset when Christie gutted the project.
Had ARC been allowed to continue, the work would have been completed by 2019. The new tunnel proposed by the PA will not be complete until 2030.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires were also key to pushing for the federal government to restore money for the Gateway tunnel project.
Prior to the congressional vote to approve the funding, Menendez and Sires held a press conference in Newark’s Penn Station to highlight the importance of the transportation funding to the region.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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