New York and New Jersey have reached an agreement on funding commitments to allow a long-stalled Amtrak tail runnel project to move ahead.
Leaders from both states announced the deal on a new trans-Hudson River Gateway Tunnel early Thursday morning.
Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Cory Booker, D-N.J. secured a commitment from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak to cover no less than 50% of project costs via grants and funding from other federal government sources.
The agreement comes nearly two months after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sent a joint letter on Sept. 15 to President Obama urging federal government support for half the costs of the project aimed at alleviating bottleneck conditions for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.
"Building this new tunnel is absolutely critical to the long-term vitality of New York and the entire northeast region," Cuomo said in a statement. "We have been working to break the federal logjam and get the federal funding that this massive undertaking requires, and for the first time, with this agreement, are partners in Washington are putting real dollars – not just loans – on the table."
The financing plan for the rail project, which Christie killed in 2010 due to cost concerns, includes a newly established Gateway Development Corporation which will identify and maximize federal grant opportunities in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new entity will also pursue low interest loans from the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing and through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that will allow all project partners to access low-cost capital.
As part of the agreement the two governors announced they are directing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in consultation with Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish a development corporation to oversee the construction and execution of the Gateway Project. The Port Authority also may take responsibility for debt service payments, according to Christie and Cuomo.
"The Port Authority, working with its partners at Amtrak, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NJ Transit, looks forward to playing a vital role in moving this essential project forward for the good of all trans-Hudson rail riders, the Northeastern Corridor and the nation," it said in a statement Thursday. "Building transportation links across the Hudson River has been a core Port Authority mission throughout its 94-year history," it said.
"We have been pushing hard for many months to make the Gateway Rail Tunnel a priority for the Port Authority and for federal and state officials," New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said in a statement. "Construction of the Gateway project will spur economic growth, cut commuting times for New Jersey Transit riders and help avert a commuter catastrophe that would occur if one of the existing tunnels needs to be closed for repairs before the new tunnels could be built."