A new trans-Hudson train tunnel is absolutely essential, but the estimated cost, as high as $20 billion, is huge by any standard. As NJ and NY Governors Christie and Cuomo said in a letter yesterday to President Obama, “The key step is to secure federal funding and design a viable financial plan.” The governors’ request is that the feds provide grants to pay for half of the cost ($10 billion) with NY, NJ and the Port Authority to fund the other half. While in previous conversations U. S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had suggested he could help with federal loans, Governor Cuomo has emphatically said in the past he seeks grants from the federal government instead.
This is a positive step forward. President Obama is supportive, but he can not commit to grants of $10 billion. Getting a Republican/dysfunctional congress to agree will be difficult. Our senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez along with Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of NY and both NY and NJ representatives will have to lead the effort. Booker is on the Senate Transportation Committee. On the House Transportation Committee there are five NY members and two NJ members – Frank LoBiondo and Albio Sires. As Amtrak needs the tunnel to enter and leave Manhattan on its Boston to Washington route, legislators throughout the northeast should be concerned.
Other parts of the proposal as detailed in the letter include the NY NJ Port Authority (PA) taking the lead role in developing and managing the project. Also the governors indicate that the PA, NY and NJ will take responsibility for developing a funding plan to cover the other $10 billion by “convening all relevant agencies, and utilizing the proposed federal low-interest loan, local funding sources, and other funding strategies necessary to complement the federal grant commitment.”
The next step is likely to be a response from President Obama or Transportation Secretary Foxx. If successful, this will be a long drawn-out process but one essential to the region’s transportation infrastructure.