A Gateway to the Future

NEW YORK, N.Y. – In the continuing Democratic angst over Joe Biden’s future, the president’s supporters like to say “he gets things done.”

And so it was that Phil Murphy, Cory Booker, their New York counterparts, and other officials converged in Manhattan Monday morning to celebrate something pretty big that is finally getting done under the Biden Administration.

That would be constructing a new rail tunnel under the Hudson and rehabilitating the two, aging tunnels that date back more than 100 years. When complete in about 10 years or so, train capacity entering and exiting New Jersey to New York City will be doubled from the current two lines to four.

“It will transform literally millions of lives,” is how Murphy put it.

As he spoke, the YouTube feed of the event showed a massive excavator in the background.

The governor said this project should not be seen merely in the “abstract,” noting that it will help commuters get home quicker and allow everyone to travel to the city without changing trains; the term is “one seat ride.”

Updating transportation systems has long been a prime focus of government and that’s where Biden comes in. The feds are providing $12 billion for the project, which is known as Gateway. Part of that deal, a $6.8 billion grant, was formally signed today.

Those who have followed this saga for a while know that the project originally was known as ARC, as in Access to the Region’s Core.

Clearly, Gateway is a better name.

The ARC project was killed in 2010 by then-Governor Chris Christie.

Without Christie’s ax, the new tunnel likely would be operating today, a point Dems and transportation advocates often make.

Supporters rekindled the project soon after it was abandoned by Christie, but the Trump Administration was never totally onboard. So, serious work had to wait for Biden to take over.

That point was made by every speaker today – Murphy, Booker, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and a number of federal transportation officials.

It was the Biden Administration – or rather the president himself – who grasped the need for this project and pushed it through. The Gateway project, they suggested, is evidence that the president is keenly aware of not only the past, but the future.  It did sound like a campaign ad.

This is a massive undertaking. Construction is estimated to generate

95,000 jobs and generate billions in economic activity. When finished, rail transportation in the nation’s largest market will be significantly improved.

Booker likes to speak dramatically and he did so again today. The senator said the nation’s commitment to Gateway shows not merely the rest of the country, but the world, what the United States can do.

“Today is a celebration of who we are,” he said.

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One response to “A Gateway to the Future”

  1. Two critical details buried in the Federal Transit Administration $6.8 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement to the Gateway Development Commission’s $16.1 billion Gateway Tunnel Phase One is that substantial repairs to the two original 110 year old Hudson River tunnel (owned by Amtrak and used by NJ Transit) damaged by Super Storm Sandy in 2012 will not begin until 2036, when the two new tunnels are scheduled to be completed and open for revenue service. This is dependent upon the tunnel boring machine contractor along other contractors responsible for installing track, signals, lighting and power meeting the 2036 date. How many millions more will Amtrak have to spend making temporary repairs during this time period on the existing tunnels to keep them functioning? Given their age, can they continue to safely function twelve more years before work really begins and seventeen more years before work is completed?

    Approval of the FTA $6.8 billion Capital Investment FFGA caps the total dollar commitment from Washington toward the $18.1 billion Gateway Tunnel Phase One project. The GDC is on the hook to cover costs beyond the agreed upon project cost. The GDC has no financial resources of its own.
    They would have to turn to Amtrak, NJ Transit, NJ Turnpike Authority, Port Authority, Trenton and Albany to cover inevitable costs overruns. NJ motorists could end up paying increased tolls on Port Authority bridges and tunnels and NJ Turnpike on top of future New York MTA Congestion Pricing tolls. NJ Transit riders might face fare increases


    Larry Penner

    (Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for NJ Transit, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.).


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