New York and New Jersey lawmakers are working together to turn a partnership between the two states and Amtrak into an authority that they hope will expedite funding and construction of the Gateway program. The program will replace aging cross-Hudson River transportation systems including a tunnel project that could cost $13 billion and a bridge project that is estimated at around $1.6 billion.
Both states' legislatures have passed measures — New York Bill S06372A and New Jersey Assembly Bill 5570 — that establish the seven-member Gateway Development Commission, which will consist of three representatives each from New York and New Jersey and one from Amtrak. The new authority will be able to accept federal grants, which, according to Bloomberg, the current Gateway Development Corp. is not authorized to do.
The commission will have authority over the tunnel, bridge and a relatively small project at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, but that list could expand to include more projects in the Gateway program's Northeast Corridor initiative. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy must still sign off on their respective bills.
The formation of the commission should remove at least one hurdle that has prevented the projects from making progress — access to federal money. Lawmakers from both states said that President Barack Obama's administration agreed to pay for half of the tunnel replacement, but, upon taking office, President Donald Trump said there was no such deal. Since then, state officials have been trying to drive home the importance of replacing the dilapidated bridge and tunnel, the latter of which sustained significant damage during 2012's Superstorm Sandy.
It looked like Cuomo, a Democrat, had made some progress with Trump in late 2018 after he sent the commander in chief a video showing how damaged the tunnel was. Cuomo characterized a subsequent meeting between the two as productive and said the president was willing to take the "next steps."
However, the president's March budget request to Congress made no provisions for the tunnel project, and administration officials maintain that the Hudson River tunnel, which connects New York and New Jersey commuters to Penn Station, is a local and state problem, not one of national importance.
But, according to recent reports, just a one-day shutdown of either of the tunnel's tubes would have a negative regional and national impact of $100 million. About 400 trains and 200,000 passengers move through the Hudson River tunnel every day.