After years of delays and political fights, construction finally began Nov. 3 on the Hudson River Tunnel portion of the Gateway Program, a $16.1 billion group of projects that will double capacity for the Northeast Corridor rail segment connecting New Jersey and New York City. President Joe Biden in January called Gateway “one of the biggest, the most consequential projects in the country.”
The federal government in November pledged to cover 70% of the cost and gave the project $3.8 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That’s welcome news for local politicians, who warned the decaying, century-old tunnel poses a bottleneck for New Jersey commuters and Amtrak passengers.
“I’ve long cautioned the potential failure of one or both of the only two rail tunnels running under the Hudson River is one of the most pressing issues facing New York City right now, and that is why I have worked so hard to advance this project, critical and the federal funds to New York with all due speed,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said at a Nov. 3 press conference.
Superstorm Sandy heavily damaged the tunnel in 2012, inundating it with millions of gallons of saltwater, which led to disabled trains, signal malfunctions, and delays.
The path to increasing capacity on this stretch of railway has been a bumpy one. In 2010, work began on a similar project called Access to the Region’s Core. Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie canceled the project later that year, citing its expense. If work had gone forward, the tunnel would have cost $8.7 billion and would most likely have been open and in use by now, according to The New York Times. Former President Donald Trump killed another attempt to build the project while he was in office, but it found a supporter in Biden.
Contracts awarded for work
Overall, the Hudson River Tunnel Project will create nine miles (4.5 miles in each direction) of a new two-track rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, and rehabilitate the existing North River Tunnel, which opened in 1910 and carries more than 450 Amtrak and N.J. Transit trains every day.
There are many components to the overall Gateway Project, including:
- New tunnel under the Hudson River.
- Rehabilitation of the existing tunnel.
- New tracks and platforms at New York-Penn Station.
- New Portal North and South Bridges over the Hackensack River in New Jersey.
- Construction of loop tracks in Secaucus.
- Sawtooth Bridges replacement.
Work is now moving on both sides of the Hudson River. The new Portal Bridge and the tunnels program are part of the first phase of the Gateway project. Tunnel digging is expected to begin in 2025, and the overall project is slated for completion in 2035.
In New York, some of the work that started in 2013 on the Hudson Yards Concrete Casing project has wrapped, with two of the three completed. The third casing will provide the connection for the Hudson River Tunnel into the new Penn Station.
This $649 million in work includes extending the casing, which will be 500 feet long, 60 feet wide and 60 feet high and made of heavily reinforced concrete and a weatherproofing membrane to cover its perimeter, to where it will link to the new tunnel. This phase should be completed by summer 2026.
Work on the New Jersey side is kicking off with the Tonnelle Avenue Bridge and Utility Relocation Project, which got the notice to proceed this month. This phase involves moving Tonnelle Avenue, a North Bergen, New Jersey, roadway that carries U.S. Routes 1 and 9 through Hudson County. The project includes utility relocation and new construction of a roadway bridge to carry the highway, to make way for the new tunnels, according to the Gateway Development Commission.
In September, the GDC awarded contracts worth $47.3 million to Naik Consulting Group for construction management and professional services, and to Conti Civil for construction to build what will be an overpass for the new tunnel. Both are based in Edison, New Jersey.
Opportunities to tackle billions in work
Five of the nine packages that make up the Hudson Tunnel portion of the project will either be under construction or procurement by the end of 2023, according to the GDC. On Nov. 20, Amtrak and N.J. Transit announced the beginning of procurement for the Sawtooth Bridges Replacement Project.
In August, firms were shortlisted for the Hudson River Ground Stabilization contract, which involves work to fortify and stabilize the New York Side of the Hudson River bottom. Proposals are due by the end of the year. Contracts for the Palisades Tunnel and Manhattan tunnel are also in procurement, and the GDC is in the RFP stage for securing a delivery partner to accelerate project planning, programming, design, management and construction management.
Stephen Sigmund, chief of public outreach for the Gateway Development Commission, said interested contractors, should be on the lookout on the ageny’s “Work With Us” page on its website, which includes procurement announcements and community engagement activities.
“It’s an opportunity to participate in [a consequential project] and be part of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure,” Sigmund said.