Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Kathy Hochul of New York signed an agreement on Tuesday that irons out a 50-50 split of the states’ cost for the more than $14 billion Gateway project to construct a new train tunnel under the Hudson River and replace the Portal Bridge.
The governors signed a memorandum of understanding that will kick-start phase one of the pricey but emergent infrastructure project intended to assuage long commutes to and from New York’s Penn Station that have suffered constant bottlenecks ever since Superstorm Sandy ravaged one of the Hudson River’s rail lines, forcing NJ Transit and Amtrak often to share a single tunnel with only one track in each direction.
“Today marks a pivotal milestone toward the completion of the most significant transportation project not just in New Jersey, but in the entire United States,” Murphy said. “As we proceed with construction of a new tunnel under the Hudson River, we advance one step closer toward a New Jersey that is better connected and better positioned to reap the full economic benefits of our status as a regional crossroads.”
Steve Sigmund, a spokesperson for the Gateway Development Commission, said construction on the new Portal Bridge, which shepherds trains over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus, will begin imminently, and work on the Hudson River tunnels is slated to start in 2023.
Aside from falling into disrepair over its 111-year history, the current Portal Bridge delays commutes when the structure opens for passing boats. To keep train flow steady, current designs call for a 50-foot-high fixed span to replace its ailing predecessor and eschew the need for the structure to open and close for water traffic.
The Federal Transit Administration will offset 60% of the new Portal North Bridge cost with grants. The remaining $772.4 million will be split evenly between the two states, with New York and New Jersey ponying up $386.2 million each, according to a statement from Murphy’s office.
Similarly, the states will pitch in equal shares of the Hudson Tunnel project’s remaining cost after federal funding.
Murphy did not specify the net price tag for the tunnel project, but Sigmund said his group, along with the Port Authority, submitted a $12.3 billion estimate to the FTA and requested a 50% share in federal grants.
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In addition to constructing a new tunnel between the two states, the project will rehabilitate the existing tunnel, doubling the number of two-way passages to and from the city for both NJ Transit and Amtrak.
The interstate agreement also outlines a timeline for funding the project and the money’s use, while Murphy’s office said it is still working with the federal government in hopes of eliciting further funding from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that President Joe Biden signed in November.
“By signing the Phase One Memorandum of Understanding, we are establishing the framework to get this project over the finish line and are making good on our promise to modernize the state’s transportation infrastructure and create a mass transit system worthy of New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement.
The memorandum of understanding is long-awaited.Advocates have been pushing the states for months to share how they plan to fund the project. And in May, after the two governors named the former head of the New Jersey Department of Transportation to lead the Gateway Development Commission, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged the two to come to a deal quickly, warning the project’s stakeholders not to “bicker over a million little things, a million different alignments and a million little questions.”