A federal judge has ruled that the $1.1 billion replacement of a movable rail bridge in Norwalk, Connecticut, can move forward despite a local activist group's claims that the U.S. DOT's environmental study of the project was inadequate.
Advocacy group Norwalk Harbor Keeper maintains that the government did not fully consider the option of a fixed bridge for the Walk Bridge replacement. The organization maintains that this option would be cheaper, be more friendly to the surrounding environment on the Norwalk River and take less time to build.
In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that the group did not have standing to sue the agency and that the moveable bridge design, which mimics the one currently in place, was likely the appropriate choice because it would not limit navigation like a lower, fixed bridge might.
The bridge's four tracks, according to the Republican American, serve about 200 trains a day, including one run by Amtrak. The current pivot design, which allows the bridge to swing open, allows larger boats to pass through so that they can reach a marina and a gravel company on the other side. Ridership on the bridge, which is positioned along the busy Northeast Corridor, is projected to double by 2065.
While vital to maintaining transportation between major cities like New York City and Boston, the project is not part of Amtrak's Gateway program, which is focused on a 10-mile stretch of the Northeast Corridor. The first phase of that initiative includes the construction of a new Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey and an overhaul of the existing one, an undertaking with a price tag of is $13 billion. The plan also includes the construction of a concrete casing in Manhattan, built as a right of way for the future tunnel's route to Pennsylvania Station, and replacement of the Portal Bridge, which also connects New York's and New Jersey's train commuters.
Thus far the Trump administration has been reluctant to promise any money for the Gateway projects, maintaining that they are regional in nature. The administration has also denied that there was a firm offer from the Obama administration to split the costs of the bridge. While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to make some inroads with President Trump on the issue last year, funding for the Hudson River tunnel was absent from the president's March budget request to Congress. The existing tunnel sustained extensive damage during 2012's Superstorm Sandy.
Another argument against federal funding made by the Trump administration is that the Gateway projects weren't set up to accept federal funding. So, recently, the New York and New Jersey legislatures created a new commission to oversee the Gateway program and gave the new body authority to borrow and receive federal grants.