The Gateway Project cleared a key regulatory hurdle, getting it back on track after years of delays.
North Jersey lawmakers applauded the decision by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Record of Decision on May 28 to approve the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will allow the Gateway Program and construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel to proceed.
“After three years of politically-motivated delays and attempts by the Trump Administration to derail Gateway, this long-overdue milestone gets us one step closer to building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel and delivering New Jersey commuters the safe, reliable service they demand and deserve,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
“The FRA’s Record of Decision allows us to move forward towards completing the full Gateway Program—the nation’s most important transportation project—that will modernize our rail infrastructure and ensure the region’s long-term economic vitality.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement will allow the project to move forward on property acquisition, engineering work, and other pre-construction work.
“The Gateway Tunnel Project is the nation’s most critical infrastructure priority and the Hudson River Tunnel is the central piece,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. “Years of inexplicable delay from the previous administration have made this project more expensive and increased the risk of a catastrophic failure of this crucial transit corridor.
“With this approval granted, I now look forward to working with the administration on the American Jobs Plan to ensure that projects of national and regional significance like Gateway get the funding they need.”
Three Year Delay
The Record of Decision was expected on March 30, 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s stated deadline after the EIS was submitted in February 2018. The project is currently estimated to cost $11.6 billion.
“I applaud FRA for issuing a final record of decision that will move the Hudson River Tunnel Project into the next phase, marking yet another exciting step toward providing New Jersey commuters the relief they desperately need,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “Since the early meetings of the stakeholders for this project, we affirmed long-term commitments to updating this outdated infrastructure and putting the Gateway Program back on track.”
The current Hudson River rail tunnels were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Lawmakers on both sides of the Hudson have advocated for building a new tunnel allowing trains to travel between New Jersey and New York City while the old ones are taken out of service for repair. Should the existing Hudson River tunnels need to be taken out of service without a replacement in place, Amtrak estimates that a shutdown of the Northeast Corridor could cost the economy nearly $100 million in transportation-related impacts and productivity losses per day.
“This long-awaited step brings us much closer to beginning the critical work of constructing the new Hudson Tunnel,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, who thanked President Joe Biden and members of his administration for honoring their commitment to move the project along. “Today’s action is a key step forward to building rail infrastructure that will be dependable for decades to come.”
“We look forward to working with our regional and federal partners to complete the Hudson Tunnel Project and continue to advance the Gateway Program in order to provide much needed relief to commuters and businesses in New Jersey and New York.”
Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, said he will work with the Biden Administration to obtain the funding necessary to complete the critical infrastructure project needed for New Jersey.
“This project will help reduce rail congestion and allow thousands of commuters to get to their final destinations faster. It will provide desperately needed new infrastructure and ensure the reliability and efficiency of travel throughout the area.” stated Payne.
Rep. Albio Sires added, “Completion of the Gateway Program will improve commerce in New Jersey and nationwide, as well as create good jobs and protect public safety. I want to thank the Biden administration for working with me on these critical infrastructure improvements that are vital to New Jersey’s 8th District. It’s time we get this done.”
The approval was expected as both Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and acting head of the Federal Transit Administration Nuria Fernandez had pritorized the project to lawmakers in Washington and Trenton in recent statements.
During a May 20 Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Sen. Menendez secured a commitment from Secretary Buttigieg to advance the Gateway Project, including finishing the Portal Bridge and building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.
“This is an example of a project that may be located in one region but is so critical that you would feel it anywhere in the country if there were to be, for example, a failure in one of these critical tunnels.” Secretary Buttigieg told Sen. Menendez during the hearing. “So we’re continuing to see this move along and are committed to working with you to see it go forward.”
The EIS comes after NJ Transit and the FTA recently finalized a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Portal North Bridge project, allowing the state agency to access over $800 million in federal funding primarily through the CIG program. The 110-year-old swing-style span over the Hackensack River in Kearny has been a source of major service disruptions for Amtrak and NJ Transit riders, and carries an average 450 trains and 200,000 passengers each day.