- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week led some of the state's Congressional delegation on a tour of the aged and damaged Hudson River rail tunnel, taking the opportunity to call on President Donald Trump’s administration to help fund construction of a new $13 billion New York-New Jersey tunnel. About 400 trains and 200,000 passengers travel the route every day, according to the Associated Press.
- Transit officials put construction of a new two-track tunnel and the repair of the two existing tubes on its list of future projects even before Superstorm Sandy. The project became a priority when officials realized the extent that seawater flooding had damaged the structure.
- The Trump administration has denied claims that there was a deal struck by former President Barack Obama for the federal government to pay half of the costs of the new tunnel, Crain's New York Business reported this month.
A press release from Murphy’s office said that if one of the Hudson River tubes was to shut down for even one day, the regional and national economic impact would be $100 million. For this reason, the project would involve building the new tunnel first and then closing the other two for repairs.
Amtrak, which owns and operates the tunnel, has estimated the operational life to be another 10 to 15 years, but with a considerable maintenance investment, AP reported. Another flood event could also endanger the tunnel’s ability to function, or, at the very least, add a significant amount to maintenance costs.
The construction and rehabilitation project is also being supported by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the state of New York.
At the end of last year, it appeared that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had made some headway in negotiating a tunnel deal with the president. Cuomo met with President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in December and reported via press conference that the president was considering a federal contribution after seeing videos and photographs of how damaged the tunnels were. Cuomo said the discussions went as far as the topic of project delivery and that he and Trump discussed the possibility of using a public-private partnership to build the new tunnel.
The president's approach to this delivery method has been inconsistent. During his 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump and his staff touted P3s as a sensible way to tackle the country's backlog of critical infrastructure projects but in 2017 said they were “more trouble than they’re worth.”
In order to get a significant infrastructure program off the ground this year, Trump is also reportedly willing to reconsider the 80% share of funding he wants local governments to come up with if they want to pursue federal dollars for their projects. He could also raise his proposed maximum federal contribution for the entire program from $200 billion.