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Trans-Hudson Tunnel Plans Inch Forward With Funding Talks

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A joint request from the governors of New York and New Jersey might bring rail commuters who cross under the Hudson River one step closer to relief from the setbacks and delays that now plague the existing trans-Hudson tunnels. The New York Observer reports that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—who have managed to bridge both partisan and geographic divides—sent President Barack Obama a letter asking the federal government to evenly split the cost of new tunnels with the states. The existing tunnels are 105-years-old, are owned and run by Amtrak, and are in desperate need of repair.

According to the governors, the cost of the new tunnels, known as the Gateway Project, will be $20 billion, which they say would be more than the cost of a new LaGuardia Airport, a new Tappan Zee Bridge, and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge roadway combined. The governors propose that the federal government pay $10 billion of that while New York and New Jersey, along with the Port Authority, work together to come up with the other half.

"The project is simply impossible without federal grant assistance," the letter the governors penned reads. "As the Governors of New York and New Jersey, we are both committed to funding our fair share of the cost and, at our direction, the jointly operated Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is ready and willing to help. Our states are committed to doing our part and to contributing funding, personnel and resources. We know how to build a tunnel."

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called the proposal a "big step forward," but didn't sign on to footing half of the bill. In August, Senator Charles Schumer of New York proposed the creation of a development corporation to cut through the bureaucratic BS and move development of the project forward. He said the governors' proposal is "light at the end of the tunnel."

The current tunnels are already beyond their lifespans and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy made things even worse. Eventually, the tunnels will each have to be shut down for uninterrupted repairs. Temporary shutdowns, along with other problems (usually along Amtrak's systems) often leave New York Penn Station even more of an overcrowded nightmare than it already is.

The Gateway Project isn't the first recent attempt to alleviate congestion under the Hudson River. In 2010, Gov. Christie cancelled the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) tunnel project (on which work had already started) that would have carried NJ Transit trains under the Hudson River to a new station near Penn Station. Christie cited cost overruns; $600 million had already been spent on the project.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist and contributor to Curbed NY. He is a photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· Cuomo and Christie Ask Feds to Pay Half of Cross-Hudson Tunnel [NYO]
· Letter from Governors [PDF, Official]
· Financing For New Hudson River Rail Tunnels Still Up In the Air [Curbed]
· Cries For New Hudson River Rail Tunnel Grows Louder [Curbed]
· All Trans-Hudson Tunnel coverage [Curbed]