Federal budget package includes $700M for Hudson River tunnel project

David Hutter//December 20, 2019

Federal budget package includes $700M for Hudson River tunnel project

David Hutter//December 20, 2019

The U.S. Senate approved legislation Dec. 19 that includes $700 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget toward the replacement of Hudson River railroad tunnels that connect New Jersey and Manhattan.

The House of Representatives cleared the $1.4 trillion budget package on Dec. 17. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump.

About 200,000 commuters travel through the tunnels daily and a failure would wreak havoc on the regional economy, transportation advocates say.

The nonprofit Gateway Development Corp. is leading the $14.3 billion-plus infrastructure project to replace the 109-year-old rail tunnels and the 109-year-old Portal Bridge, which spans the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny. The bridge opens to allow ships to pass on the river and regularly becomes stuck, halting trains from Boston to Washington, D.C.

The 108-year-old Portal North Bridge.

Local partners, including the states of New Jersey and New York, have collectively committed more than $6 billion toward the Gateway project.

The federal budget provides about $640 million for New Jersey transit infrastructure, which can be used to fund the Gateway Project. The bill includes bonus transit formula dollars on top of the guaranteed levels and preserves $75 million in New Jersey Transit funding, said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

The federal funding package also extends a provision prohibiting changes to the weight limits at Teterboro Airport. The provision prevents larger, noisier airplanes from accessing the airport, protecting the airport’s infrastructure and improving quality of life for residents in surrounding neighborhoods, Menendez added.

In addition, the package includes more than $123.5 million for New Jersey Army Corps projects, $2 billion for Amtrak, $325 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, $200 million for the State of Good Repair grants, said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.

The latter programs were co-sponsored by Booker in the 2015 FAST Act and provide resources to upgrade aging railroad infrastructure that could help free up funds for the Gateway Program.

The bill includes language clarifying that federal loans made to states as part of the Capital Investment Grant program, which states must pay back with local dollars, count as part of the states’ share and contribution to a transportation project when calculating match requirements, Booker said.