Daily, over 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 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, but there is a caveat: Superstorm Sandy heavily damaged the tunnels beneath the Hudson River that protect the commuter lines. Transit experts fear a collapse in the coming years, with delays from President Trump and a lack of infrastructure funding exacerbating the potential for catastrophic collapses.
The problem lies in determining how to fix the crumbling infrastructure before it is too late. The closure of even one of these two 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” (Gateway Program). The economic and environmental damage from closing even one tube is far too great. The most feasible solution, then, is this: construct a new tunnel under the Hudson River before rehabilitating the existing tunnel, preventing any slowing of the transit system while improving the efficiency and safety of this interstate railway. This is the essence of the $11.6 billion Gateway Program, which is supported by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
On Monday, June 28, Buttigieg and Schumer toured the two rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River, both of which faced tremendous damage during Hurricane Sandy, and later announced their commitment to the Gateway Program and pressured the public to do the same. This newfound support for the project was matched with other promising news: the federal Department of Transportation recently finalized the Project’s environmental impact statement, allowing for pre-construction activities to take place. Economic support has also grown as New York and New Jersey both agree to fund half of the construction, and the federal government agreeing to fund the rest. Biden’s American Jobs Plan allocates a portion of its funds to the Gateway Program as well. The largest unknown of the project continues to be the timeline, with construction currently expected to begin in 2023 and last between six to seven years. Schumer is pushing to expedite the timeline, but this has yet to be officially decided.
One thing that is for certain? NYLCV and countless other advocates have the power and responsibility to support this modern infrastructure plan that could double the capacity of the NEC train line between Newark and New York City, empowering economic prosperity and procuring the health and safety of our citizens.