The future of the Gateway Tunnel project—the $13 billion plan to replace the deteriorating Amtrak tunnels below the Hudson River—is once again in peril, as the Trump administration scuttled a funding proposal from Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.
In a letter drafted to the governors, acting Federal Transit Administration administrator K. Jane Williams alleges that there was never an agreement between the two states and the federal government to split the cost of the project, reports Crain’s.
Referencing a recent letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in which the governors outlined a plan to underwrite their portion of the project’s cost, Williams responded by stating the following:
“Your letter also references a nonexistent ‘50-50’ agreement between USDOT, New York, and New Jersey. There is no such agreement. We consider it unhelpful to reference a nonexistent ‘agreement’ rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where nine out of 10 passengers are local transit riders.”
Previously, the Obama administration had promised to pitch in to cover half of the costs for the desperately needed transportation project. But a senior DOT official told Crain’s that agreement was a “politically-motivated public relations maneuver” carried out by former Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
What happens now? Though this is a major setback, it may not spell doom for the whole project: John Porcari, the executive director of the Gateway Development Corporation, told the New York Times that work tied to the Gateway project—including planning, as well as the replacement of a bridge in northern New Jersey—will continue. “A major project like this is a series of near-death experiences,” Porcari told the Times.
(One of those near-death experiences: When Christie himself axed the project in 2010, after construction had already begun, citing its high costs. He later used $3 billion from Port Authority that was earmarked for the tunnel to fix roads and bridges in New Jersey.)