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.
“We remain confident that we will win again,” Zaro said.
Zaro recapped that they are value-engineering the project on a daily basis to reduce costs.
“The political games on these projects need to stop,” Zaro said. “GDC and our partners have answered and will continue to address all of the FTA’s legitimate questions and issues during the process. We need for this administration to acknowledge those efforts and really work with us so we avoid the catastrophe of a failing Portal Bridge or Tunnel.”
Gateway Development Program Corp. Interim Executive Director Frank Sacr recapped that the Federal Transit Administration gave a medium-low rating on the Portal North Bridge and the Hudson Tunnels in March as a downgrade showing “we went backward.”
The Gateway Development Program Corp. is a nonprofit organization charged with overseeing an estimated $20 billion infrastructure project to replace the 108-year-old Hudson River rail tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan and the 108-year-old Portal North Bridge in New Jersey. More than 200,000 people travel through the tunnels and across the bridge each day.
Sacr said Gateway did a lot of work but nonetheless did not improve from its medium-low ranking, and that New Jersey Transit has been working with Amtrak to put in place constraints to demonstrate cost overruns are being met.
“We reduced grant amounts from $125 million per year to $100 million per year,” Sacr said. “Nevertheless, we are not able to move the needle on the ratings process. We will review the FTA’s comments and address their concerns,” he added.
Accounting company Ernst & Young is working with Gateway to evaluate risks, create a risk register, and quantify risks. “We are all about ways to reduce the risk,” Sacr said.
About 60 firms have accessed the data rooms. The goal is to reduce the risk of unknown ground conditions. As a result, Gateway has revised the supplemental boring plan. “We have a good ongoing dialogue with any procurement we would undertake,” Sacr said.
Gateway chief communications officer Steve Sigmund recapped that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker have asked the Coast Guard to not open the Portal Bridge as often as possible.
“Every time the bridge opens, it causes a delay of 20 minutes when it works,” Sigmund said. “It does not obviate the need for a higher fixed bridge.”
President Donald Trump put $500 million into the SIG program in the fiscal year 2020 budget, Sigmund said.
Nat Bottigheimer, the director of New Jersey programs for the Regional Plan Association, thanked Senator Menendez and the United States Coast Guard for mitigating delays by reducing the number of times the Portal North Bridge is opened.