$13B Hudson River tunnel project misses environmental review deadline
- The U.S. Department of Transportation has not yet signed off on the environmental impact study for the $13 billion Hudson River tunnel, causing project officials to miss a self-imposed approval deadline of March 31 and potentially impairing their ability to obtain crucial federal funding, according to Politico.
- The Transportation Department said the review of a project the "size and scope" of the Hudson River tunnel requires the input of several DOT agencies so that it can address potential legal issues and community concerns. But if Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao doesn't sign off on the impact study before July, tunnel officials will miss the July 14 deadline to apply for $6 billion in New Starts grants, even though the project's current DOT rating is too low to qualify for those grants.
- Review process delays mean procurement for tunnel contractors and suppliers cannot move forward, risking the potential for the new tunnel to not be built before the existing tunnel potentially fails. Such a failure would interrupt travel along the Northeast Corridor and potentially cripple the area economically.
The tunnel project has continued to see setbacks in recent months, going from being top priority on the Trump administration's list of emergency and national security projects to one the administration now says is a regional concern that is not entitled to the $6 billion funding package the Obama administration reportedly promised.
In testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in early March, Chao said President Donald Trump has taken steps to thwart the project, going as far as asking House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to block funding for it. Chao said the administration has taken its position on the tunnel because they believe New York and New Jersey need to contribute more money. Both states and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have, together, come up with close to half of the estimated project cost.
Some have speculated that the shift could be attributed to political tensions between the president and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who backs the tunnel project.
The project's management company, Gateway Program Development Corporation, has said it is considering the possibility of taking on private investors as part of a public-private partnership (P3) in order to make up any potential funding gaps left by the federal government. Since the president's latest infrastructure plan gives state, local and other agencies more responsibility in financing their projects, the P3 is likely to be an option more public entities will latch onto as they try to get infrastructure initiatives underway.
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