During a Jan. 31 afternoon press conference at the West Side Rail Yard in New York, President Joe Biden announced a $292 million Mega Grant to fund a critical early phase of the Hudson Tunnel Project.
The award to Amtrak is part of $649 million in funding to complete the final section of concrete casing to preserve future right-of-way for the new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
“Let me say this at the outset, this is just the beginning,” said Biden. “It is the beginning of finally constructing a 21st century rail system that’s long overdue in this country.”
The casing protects the path of the planned new tunnel from Penn Station to the Hudson River’s edge. This portion of the project is critical because if the casing was not built now, the foundation from the new Hudson Yards development would likely impede the path of the tunnel — making the project even more difficult to complete than it already is.
The announcement drew leaders including Govs. Phil Murphy and Kathy Hochul, as well as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, members of the New Jersey congressional delegation and other stakeholders.
Murphy said that while this new tunnel will connect New Jersey and New York, ease commutes and create thousands of good-paying jobs, it is about even more than that.
“More broadly, it’s about maintaining the strength of the entire Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C., through which so much of our nation’s economic lifeblood flows,” said Murphy. “When trains can’t get through the current, cramped tunnel, not just the entire Northeast Corridor, but our entire economy comes to a halt.”
“This project is critical to transforming the Northeast Corridor, increasing speeds, capacity, reliability and safety,” said Biden.
Murphy said he stands with Biden, lauding his vision for the nation’s infrastructure.
“Our region and our nation can’t wait any longer,” said Murphy. “And I’ve been saying since the day I took office just over five years ago that the time for Gateway is now.”
Buttigieg said that the application process for these Mega Grants – funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – was competitive, with nearly 138 applications submitted and just nine projects selected across the country, including the Hudson Tunnel Project.
“The success of this application reflects the unique economic importance of this tunnel and the larger Gateway Program,” said Buttigieg. “It’s going to renew critical connections in this area.”
The Transportation secretary said this project is truly one of national importance. In taking a swipe at the last administration for thwarting the project from moving forward, Buttigieg described the announcement as a new day.
“Put simply, we are tearing down the political obstacles that were put in front of this project in the past and putting up more of the funding to make sure the project succeeds in the future,” said Buttigieg. “When we do, the results will be a stronger national economy, more resilient infrastructure, and even less pollution for an entire region.”
The overall Hudson Tunnel Project is a more than $16 billion investment, which Amtrak expects will result in 72,000 jobs.
That is part of the broader Gateway Program, which aims to expand and rebuild the rail line between Newark, New Jersey, and New York City through a number of projects, including the new Portal North Bridge that broke ground last year.
The White House says that Tuesday’s Mega Grant announcement is the first of several funding announcements for the project expected this year.
“With President Biden’s support and tireless work, Gateway will start active construction this year to deliver a more reliable, climate-resilient, 21st Century rail link for the region and the nation,” said Alicia Glen, New York commissioner; Balpreet Grewal-Virk, New Jersey commissioner and co-chair; and Tony Coscia, Amtrak commissioner and vice-chair, in a joint statement from the Gateway Development Commission.
“All told, this is one of the most consequential projects in the country,” said Biden. “But it’s going take time. It’s a multibillion-dollar effort between the states and the federal government. But we finally have the money and we’re going to get it done. I promise you we’re going to get it done.”