The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) withdrew from their position on the board of the Gateway Program, a nearly $24 billion project to add a second rail underneath the Hudson River on Friday, June 30.
The project looks to double the rail capacity between New York and New Jersey, something that will help address the increasing number of commuters travelling from New Jersey to New York, as well as fix some of the deteriorating infrastructure in the region. The current two-tube tunnel that approximately 200,000 people use every day suffered considerable damage back in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy – if one of the tubes fails before this project is completed, Amtrak, which sits on the board along with Port Authority board members, projects that the tunnel capacity would drop by 75 percent.
“Moving forward and completing the new Portal Bridge and Hudson River Tunnel is critical to create and preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs and to avoid the economic, transportation and environmental calamity that would occur were the existing tunnel to be closed before the new tunnel is opened,” said John D. Porcari, the interim executive director of the corporation, in a statement.
Following the withdrawal announcement, a spokesman from the USDOT stated that,
“The decision to resign from the Board should not be misinterpreted as any form of decision about the multiple individual projects promoted by the Gateway Development Corporation.”
President Obama committed half of the funding for the project and fast-tracked its review process, but President Trump has not shown the same level of support. His preliminary budget for 2018 included cutting a grant program that is expected to send $750 million towards constructing the new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. Local funding is still in place for the bridge, but it is not clear whether or not the federal government will provide the expected funding for the project.
While the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo has not issued a statement addressing the USDOT’s withdrawal from the board, Governor Cuomo and other officials have expressed confidence that the project will receive the federal funding it needs.
“This is a project that fits all the criteria President Trump talks about… It is public-private sector partnership. It is New York State, New Jersey, partnering with the federal government.”