With the White House now populated by a president noted for his frequent usage of Amtrak (and no known beefs with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York), there’s a glimmer of renewed confidence that the Gateway Program will receive the much-needed funding it needs as soon as possible.
The massive $30 billion infrastructural overhaul, which would expand and modernize the largely Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor rail line in and around New York City and New Jersey, was downgraded and essentially stuck in environmental review limbo under the Trump administration as officials in both states stressed the need to repair and rebuild sections of the century-old, Hurricane Sandy-damaged North River Tunnel. In addition to overhauling the existing tunnel and embarking on numerous additions and improvements along the most heavily-trafficked stretch of rail in the United States, a new $11.6 billion tunnel under the Hudson would be built alongside the existing one to dramatically increase train capacity between New York’s Penn Station and New Jersey.
The Gateway Program Development Corporation hopes to have a new tunnel completed by 2028.
As reported by Bloomberg, Schumer hinted at the favorable prospects of the tunnel project receiving funding in a recent video call with reporters and members of The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization fighting for improved—read: affordable and more reliable—public transit in New York.
During the call, Schumer said that is working with the Biden administration and Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg to “unleash” $12 billion that would be made available to the Gateway Program. Per Bloomberg, Schumer also relayed during the call that he has implored Buttigieg to give the Metropolitan Transit Authority federal guidance on moving forward with a Manhattan congestion pricing scheme that will help to foot the bills of billions of dollars in other transit-related projects.
“I told him it’s important that he figure this out and break through the deadlock,” Schumer reportedly said of his talk with Buttigieg regarding congestion pricing. “And he seemed very amenable and open to it. So I think we’ll be ok.”
The Senate secured $1 billion in federal funding for the Gateway Program in 2015. However, the Gateway Program Development Corporation has been waiting for further funding—and a decidedly non-antagonistic presidential administration—to tap into it and begin the various necessary federal review processes per Gothamist.
“The right investment for the Biden Administration, Congress, the region and the nation, is to partner with us to build Gateway—providing tens of thousands of jobs just when they are needed most, improving reliability and mobility, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting 20 percent of the nation’s GDP from a potential closure of a vital link to the nation’s economic heart,” Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the Gateway Program Development Corporation, told Roll Call.
In addition to the optimism openly shared by Schumer, advocates of the project see the nomination of former Schumer aid and New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to the post of Deputy Secretary of Transportation as being a major boon for moving the project forward.
“She gets it,” Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of construction trade group the New York Building Congress, said of Trottenberg to Roll Call. “I have a funny feeling the next four years will be the greatest infrastructure years in our history. I think with Polly Trottenberg at U.S. DOT, whatever bureaucratic hurdles that are in the way of Gateway, she will resolve them immediately.”