The state Legislatures of New York and New Jersey are moving ahead with creating a new commission to oversee the financing and construction of the multibillion-dollar trans-Hudson River tunnel.
Assembly Bill 5570 – which both the Assembly and Senate approved on Thursday – would establish the seven-member Gateway Development Commission to oversee the construction of the $13 billion tunnels and the $1.6 billion Portal Bridge replacement.
New York and New Jersey each have three voting members and split the state’s end of the bill 50/50; Amtrak will have one member on the commission.
The three trustees of the nonprofit Gateway Program Development Corp. welcomed the bi-state passage of legislation they say furthers the project.
“The Gateway Program Development Corp. thanks Govs. Phil Murphy and Andrew Cuomo, the legislative leaders and members in New Jersey and New York, as well as GDC and partner staff, for their hard work in passing the bi-state Gateway Development Commission Act,” Jerry Zaro, chairman; Anthony Coscia, vice-chairman; and Steven Cohen, New York trustee, said in a prepared statement.
“Making GDC a bi-state commission will allow us to meet our mission of delivering Gateway and finally replacing a century-old, failing, one-track-in, one-track-out rail system with modern, reliable, 21st-century infrastructure to serve hundreds of thousands of daily riders and 20 percent of the nation’s GDP. The passage of this joint legislation puts us over a critical hurdle in moving forward with the Gateway project and should once again alleviate any concerns raised by our federal partners,” they said. “It’s clear that New York, New Jersey, and Amtrak stand ready to get these projects done.”
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign A5570, and the New York Legislature’s version is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Both governors have to approve identical legislation.
The bi-state agency would be authorized to receive and spend money for the project, including federal funds that have been delayed by the Trump administration, which has repeatedly blocked funding requests, most recently in March.
“We need to get Gateway moving and this legislation provides a strong framework to ensure that the project is done right,” sponsor Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District, said in a statement.
“The feds have actually made a few negative comments because we didn’t have the vehicle in place,” Weinberg added.
New Jersey state officials and the Congressional delegation argue that the move is political retaliation against New Jersey and New York – the home state of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The tunnels are over a century old and were badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, says it is not sure how long they have left before one or both tunnels will have to be closed to make critical repairs and upgrades.
The Gateway is the only rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan and sees upwards of 200,000 commuters daily. A disruption to the workforce could deal a massive blow to the regional economy, advocates worry.
“We are in a race against time to get the new Gateway tunnels built before the Sandy-damaged tunnels are forced to close for repairs, which would cut NJ Transit trans-Hudson rail capacity by 75 percent and cripple our region’s economy,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, R-21st District, said in a Monday statement.
NJBIZ’s David Hutter contributed to this report.