Rating upgrade from FTA clears way for $10 billion Hudson tunnel project
The U.S. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) upgraded the long-awaited, planned $10 billion Hudson Tunnels project’s rating to medium-high, thus making it eligible to receive federal funding.
The project was given lower ratings during the Trump administration which clashed with the states of New York and New Jersey over the financial commitment of each entity.
Under an understanding reached during the administration of former President Barack Obama, the states had agreed to split half the cost of the tunnel, using federal loans to be paid back over decades, with federal grants accounting for the other half.
Under former President Donald Trump, the FTA said states weren’t allowed to use federal loans as part of their funding match to get the federal grants. That policy was rescinded by the administration of current President Joe Bide, the Associated Press reported.
Funding for the tunnel will come out of money earmarked for rail projects in the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
In a statement, the Gateway Development Commission, which is overseeing the project, said, “Along with the more than $6 billion commitment from New York and New Jersey, and the $1.4 billion that Amtrak has pledged, today’s action moves us a big step closer to a true Federal-local partnership that finally brings 21st-century rail infrastructure to the heart of the nation’s economy.”
The existing tunnel beneath the Hudson River is more than 110 years old and prone to problems and delays due to crumbling walls and aging signals and wiring. Saltwater intrusion from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 accelerated the tunnel’s deterioration and forced Amtrak, which owns the tunnel, to embark on costly repairs to keep it functioning reliably.
Hundreds of trains and hundreds of thousands of passengers per day pass through the tunnel during normal times, and delays can ripple up and down the East Coast between Boston and Washington. Once primary construction begins, the new tunnel could take as long as seven years to complete.
Under the Gateway project, the new tunnel would be built parallel to the existing tunnel. Once completed, the existing tunnel would be taken out of service for a complete overhaul, estimated to take as long as two years.
Among other large-scale rail improvements in the region are the replacement of a century-old rail bridge in New Jersey that has been a regular source of delays; tunnels connecting the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, scheduled to open this year; and the transformation and eventual expansion of the aging and unsightly Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.
“As a major component of the Gateway Program, the Hudson Tunnel Project will improve commuter safety, help address the myriad of delays that impact the entire Northeast Corridor, and increase our nation’s economic competitiveness,” said Sen. Corey Booker. “For years, I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this vital infrastructure project gets the federal investment it deserves and am glad to see this announcement from the FTA which will allow construction to commence and create jobs for our state’s residents.”