No light at the end of this tunnel

You dislike President Trump? Well, his vehement opposition to the Gateway Trans-Hudson tunnel is just another reason to do so. Under the Obama administration there was an agreement that the costs would be shared 50-50. Not so now with the Trump administration. Is Trump petty? The speculation is that Trump’s opposition to the tunnel is based on the fact that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has opposed Trump on many issues. So it comes down to petty personal politics instead of what is in the nation’s best interest.

Rep. Frelinghuysen in the original proposed budget had placed $900 million toward the project. After a lot of persuasion from the NY and NJ delegation and support from congressional leadership, Trump has just agreed to $540 million in the the current spending bill. In addition, the project will be eligible to apply for a share of $2.9 billion in U.S. Department of Transportation grants, according to a source. Given Trump’s volatility, however, nothing is guaranteed.

In December before leaving office Governor Christie and New York Governor Cuomo agreed on a formula to fund the most important parts of the project at a cost of $12.7 billion: State of New York commits to $1.75 Billion; NJ Transit commits to $1.9 Billion; Port Authority will fund $1.9 Billion for a combined total $5.55 Billion with the federal government paying $5.55 Billion. That deal is now on shaky ground. Included in Christie’s plan was an unpleasant multi-year $2B in fare hike.

“It’s troubling that we get a tunnel, but we don’t get a wall,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C) said. Actually there is funding for the stupid wall in the budget. However, the fact that conservative leaders not just Trump oppose the tunnel is another reason we must take back control of the House of Representatives in November.

In the meantime Governors Murphy and Cuomo, the Port Authority and Amtrak must review their short-term funding plans to move this essential project forward. “I hope the reports are true,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, reserving further comment until the deal is completed. Our federal legislative delegation will also have to continue its efforts to gain a longer term federal commitment. A project as expensive and important as this cannot succeed without strong federal funding and a clear, collaborative plan. At this moment the path forward remains murky, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

The Gateway funding is a part of the massive annual spending deal which congressional leaders seem to have clinched despite Trump’s misgivings. Congress has until Friday night to pass the legislation and gain Trump’s signature in order to avoid a government shut-down. You can read here the Politico article on the total budget package and follow the situation as we approach the Friday deadline.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *