Fitch Solutions issued a report Friday contending there is no clear path forward for the $20 billion bridge and tunnel rail reconstruction project connecting New Jersey and New York as the Trump Administration’s opposition to the Gateway Program will remain a major impediment to the rail project’s advance through to the end of 2020.
“Without federal funding, Fitch does not expect the project will advance at its planned scale, with New York and New Jersey likely to look for less expensive alternatives,” the data provider wrote in a prepared statement. “The Trump Administration’s failure to support the project raises questions around its commitment to advancing infrastructure development in the country.”
Gateway Development Corp. Chairman Jerry Zaro called the Federal Transit Administration’s downgrade of the bridge and tunnel project “purely political,” at a Gateway board meeting on Tuesday in Manhattan. Zaro recalled that it was only two years ago that Gateway earned a medium-high rating during the start of President Donald Trump’s administration.
In March 2019, the FTA issued a medium-low rating for the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel Projects. During the Tuesday meeting, the Gateway Development Corporation presented a detailed critique of the FTA’s medium-low ratings for the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel Projects.
The trustees said that the Portal North Bridge should be rated medium-high or higher, due to actions taken by the project sponsor New Jersey Transit in response to previous FTA feedback, including a commitment of $600 million in direct New Jersey Economic Development Authority bonding to the project, which is 100 percent of the local share. Trustees said all actions short of selling the bonds have been taken to commit the funds.
New Jersey Transit addressed other feedback provided by FTA in previous ratings, including lowering the amount of funding required from the CIG program and lowering the project cost. The trustees said both of these actions appear to have been ignored in the latest rating.
Additionally, the trustees said the Hudson Tunnel Project should be rated medium or higher on account of the $2.7 billion commitment made by an approved resolution of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, representing 34.8 percent of the non-CIG funds required by FTA for a medium rating, exceeding the level required by the FTA at this stage of the process.
The trustees said additional local funds that total more than $5.5 billion have been committed by the States of New York and New Jersey and the Port Authority. This is a sum that represents 89 percent of the local funding needed to construct a new Hudson River Tunnel.