New Jersey presses Trump for Gateway go-ahead
The first phase of the long-delayed Gateway project under the Hudson River is "shovel ready" once the Trump administration provides the green light, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
The governor, a Democrat, said Monday that New Jersey is ready to begin replacing the Portal North Bridge nearly three months after it agreed to assume the entire share of local costs for the structure considered an important linkage toward completing an $11.1 billion tunnel project connecting to Manhattan. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved the issuance of $600 million of state-appropriation-backed bonds during the summer in hopes that the increased pledged support would boost chances for obtaining federal funds.
“New Jersey is ready to get to work on America’s next great infrastructure project,” said Murphy during a press conference next to the current Portal Bridge in Secaucus. “We are ready for the Trump administration to step up to the plate with us.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation responded to New Jersey’s funding plans by saying an extension of the Portal North Bridge phase of the Gateway project was needed because of a “volume of information” submitted shortly before the July 14, 2018 deadline, according to Gateway Development Corp. spokesman Craig Schulz. Gateway Development is partnership between New York, New Jersey, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The Federal Transit Administration previously determined that the Gateway Development as constituted is not eligible for federal capital improvement grants. The Port Authority has a result taken on the role of lead sponsor for the tunnel project until New York and New Jersey lawmakers enact a legal fix that would grant Gateway both financing and development authority.
The planned new Portal North Bridge would be a high-level fixed span over the Hackensack River capable of supporting both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains at speeds of up to 90 mph. The current movable turntable-style bridge was built in 1910.
“When this bridge gets stuck, as it all too often does, thousands of commuters get stuck and commerce along the entire Northeast Corridor gets stuck with them,” said Murphy. “This little bridge and this Gateway project impact about 20% of our nation’s GDP.”
The existing Hudson River tunnels linking New Jersey with Penn Station in midtown Manhattan are more than a century old and suffered severe water damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which caused a five-day service shutdown. The Obama administration brokered a 2015 funding plan where the federal government would pay for half of the Gateway project, but President Trump and his Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao have resisted efforts to advance initiative.
“A shutdown of the corridor, which may very well be a reality without Gateway, would cost $100 million per day,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said at the press conference. “It would be a disaster for our workers, for our economy and our air quality.”
The press offices for the USDOT and President Trump did not immediately respond for comment on the status of federal funding for the Gateway project.