The long-delayed project to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River for train travel between New York and New Jersey is moving forward, with billions in funding recently announced from the federal government. A well-functioning railroad for New York City commuters and the greater Northeast Corridor is critical to getting fossil-fuel-burning automobiles off the road, which translates into cleaner air and improved public health.
The long-anticipated project will be among the first to get funding according to a new project inventory released by the Federal Railroad Administration,
Construction of the Gateway Tunnel, which has been in the works at various stages for more than a decade, is crucial to the economy and environment of New York City and New Jersey. Daily, more than 200,000 people commute to and from New York City via Amtrak or NJ TRANSIT lines. Crossing eight states and Washington, D.C., the Northeast Corridor (“NEC”) is the most heavily used rail line in the United States, with a crucial area being the 10-mile stretch connecting New Jersey and New York. Currently, this 10-mile section of the NEC is serviced by a tunnel badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. While it is now operational again, experts fear its vulnerability.
The tunnel’s two tracks averages about 450 trains per day and serves Penn Station, America’s busiest rail station. A train line so heavily trafficked is integral to the employment and economic prosperity of the region. With transit experts fearing a collapse in the current tunnel in the coming years, the influx of funding for the Gateway Project couldn’t come soon enough.
In addition to the Hudson Tunnel project, the Gateway Program also includes the replacement of the century-old Portal North Bridge, removing another pinch point in the Northeast Corridor, and together these projects are slated to receive a $17 billion from the Federal Railroad Administration, inclusive of $7.6 billion in federal funding from the Capital Investment Grants Program.
For years, the problem was trying to determine how to fix the crumbling infrastructure before it was too late. The closure of even one of these two rail lines for repairs “could reduce capacity by 75%, forcing tens of thousands of commuters and travelers into other modes of travel, pushing them on to already congested bridges, tunnels, and streets,” according to the Gateway Program. The economic and environmental damage from closing even one tube is far too great. The most feasible solution, then, was seen as constructing a new tunnel under the Hudson River before rehabilitating the existing tunnel, to prevent any slowing of the transit system while improving the efficiency and safety of this interstate railway. After the new tunnel is complete, the Gateway Project “will spend three years rehabilitating the existing tunnels, ultimately doubling track capacity to reduce delays and increase service.”
This project, once completed, will maintain and enhance economic prosperity in the NY-NJ corridor, while at the same time serving as an environmentally sound alternative to other, more polluting, modes of transport.