Top officials from New York and New Jersey visited the White House on Thursday, September 7 to discuss the future of the Gateway project, a multibillion-dollar tunnel that will run underneath the Hudson River connecting the two states.
The project, ranked as the most important transportation infrastructure project in the country by the Obama administration, sits in limbo as the new administration still hasn’t committed to covering half the cost of the $29 billion project. Officials remain hopeful that they will be able to secure the necessary funding to finance the final part of the project. Both New York and New Jersey have agreed to cover half of the cost of the project.
The existing tunnel between the two states was built a century ago is at risk of closing because of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. According to Amtrak, which owns the existing tunnel, one of the two existing tubes may need to be closed down. If this happens, train traffic between the two states could be reduced by an estimated 75 percent.
“This is a vital and critical project for the entire northeast,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. “My position is very simple. It’s critical. It’s vital. It’s overdue. It’s been talked about for too long. You should have had a shovel in the ground from the day you said go.”
Another potential issue facing the Gateway project is the current lack of funding for Hudson Yards, a large-scale redevelopment program currently being built over the West Side Rail Yard. The project needs an estimated $440 million to complete the final section of a tunnel that will connect the Gateway tunnel to tracks leading to Penn Station.
The difficulty around the construction is that both the deck and the tunnel underneath it need to be built at the same time. The tunnel’s design calls for nine-foot-thick concrete walls in order to support the weight of the massive development on top, while the deck’s pylons need to allow the tunnel to make its way through them. If Hudson Yards’ construction remains on its initial schedule at the current level of funding, the final bit of tunnel will not be built and the Gateway project will lose a vital section.
“All of us realize that the entire Gateway project is dependent on this last piece being constructed before the Hudson Yards development overtakes it,” said John Porcari, the interim head of Gateway Development Corp., a government entity formed to coordinate the nearly $30 billion project. “There are no easy ways to fund it, but there are ongoing discussions right now. I would leave it at that.”