Every day, approximately 200,000 passengers commute between New Jersey and New York via the rail tunnels that run beneath the Hudson River. These tunnels, which are over 100 years old, are deteriorating and face the risk of closing permanently. Repairs are long overdue, and 2012’s Hurricane Sandy further exacerbated the condition of the tunnels when salt floodwaters causing major track, mechanical and electrical issues. Just last month, a pole went through the ceiling of a train, causing major delays and costly damage. We can expect more and more situations like this if the tunnels aren’t repaired. If just one of the tunnels had to close, the already congested connection would be overcrowded by 75%.
There are also significant environmental impacts to congestion in the rail tunnels. The transportation sector is already the top contributor to emissions in New York State, and further tunnel bottlenecks will push even more cars onto highways, increasing carbon emissions and air pollution.
Luckily, there is a solution: the Gateway Tunnel project.
The Gateway Project involves building a new group of tunnels under the Hudson River. The idea has been around for nearly two decades. In 1995, the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) Tunnel was proposed. After numerous studies, then-New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and then-New York Governor George Pataki declared their support. NJ Transit then selected a route for the tunnels in 2005. In 2009, the project was finally greenlit at a cost of $9 billion, to be split evenly between the federal government, New York, and New Jersey and partially paid for with funds from the federal stimulus bill. But just a year later, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie canceled the project.
However, the need for repairs kept growing. After Sandy, planners and policymakers renewed their commitment to both build a new tunnel and resolve the broader trans-Hudson transportation bottleneck.
Under the new project name Gateway, the Obama administration recognized the importance of building new tunnels and agreed to split the costs with New York and New Jersey. However, progress slowed again when the Trump administration came into office and began to waffle on the federal government’s commitment to fund half the project. But advocacy for the project persists. Recently, a coalition of civic, labor and business leaders, including the New York League of Conservation Voters, formed the Build Gateway Now Coalition to advocate for and spread awareness of the importance of this project. Not building Gateway is not an option, and we are cautiously optimistic that the Trump Administration will recognize this fact.
As a robust transportation network is part of our 2018 Statewide Agenda and NYC Agenda, we will continue working to advance this project, as well as other public transportation projects across the state.