N.Y. Sen. vows to get Gateway tunnel permits moving

November 18, 2020

The Gateway Tunnel project linking New York and New Jersey has been stalled in limbo for nearly three years while the Environmental Impact Statements needed to move the project forward have remained unsigned.

On Nov. 16, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY) said he is hopeful a new administration in the White House could advance the project. NJ.com reported that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is closing in on three years since it missed a March 30, 2018, deadline the U.S. Department of Transportation imposed to issue a record of decision after reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway rail tunnel.

After citing “four years of gratuitous delay” from President Donald Trump’s administration, Schumer said he is counting on some help from President-Elect Joe Biden to get the Federal Railroad Administration to finally make a decision on the Environmental Impact Statement, which has held up the project.

“Trump refused to allow Gateway to go forward, (U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao) refused to sign the EIS,” Schumer said at a press conference. “Biden said repeatedly he wants to fund Gateway. As soon as he becomes president and his appointees take office, I’m urging them to sign the EIS and Gateway can move forward.”

A number of officials in New York and New Jersey have voiced support for the tunnels. The tunnels connecting the states are 100-years-old and if one were to be put out of service it could have a devastating economic impact on the region.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced commuter rail travel to 20 to 25 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels as many employees work from home, supporters say the tunnels are needed for when workers do return to Manhattan offices.

NJ.com reported that during the last four years, New Jersey and New York’s congressional delegation sparred with Trump over funding Gateway. At one point in 2018, the president threatened to shut down the government if the federal budget contained an appropriation for Gateway.

After the coronavirus slowed the economy, Trump seemed to soften his stance in July, backing federal funding for replacement of Amtrak’s Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in Kearny, a project related to Gateway. That followed the mantra of state officials that infrastructure construction projects could stimulate a post COVID-19 recovery and create jobs.

Schumer also talked about the federal funding that he said could come to Gateway with the “stroke of a pen.” Construction costs of new tunnels are estimated at $9.5 billion and rehabilitation of the exiting 110-year old tunnels at $1.8 billion.
 

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