A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration
disputes representatives of local parties who support the replacement of the 108-year-old Hudson River rail tunnels that connect New Jersey and New York City and the 108-year-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey. The USDOT spokesperson said the Hudson Tunnel project partners have not completed the steps required in law and regulation to receive a construction grant award under the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG)
More than 200,000 people travel through the tunnels and across the bridge each day.
“After several years of being in the CIG program, the Hudson Tunnel project remains ineligible to advance from the first phase to the second phase because it has received a medium-low rating from the professional career staff at FTA, in significant part because of inadequate financial plans,” the USDOT spokesperson said. “Any holding up of the Hudson Tunnel project is at the state and local levels.”
The USDOT spokesperson said that state and local actions remaining include a project partner committed to designing and constructing the project that is responsible for implementing all environmental mitigation measures stated as commitments in the final environmental impact statement.
“FTA has been told the intent is for the Gateway Development Corporation to become the entity responsible for construction,” the USDOT spokesperson said. “If this is the case, the New York and New Jersey state legislatures would need to pass legislation to make the GDC a public entity for it to be eligible by federal law to be a CIG grant recipient.”
“All non-CIG funding needs to be secured, including applying for multiple federal loans through the U.S. DOT Build America Bureau
,” the USDOT spokesperson said. “Importantly, the project partners would first need to identify the source of approximately $800 million in unspecified local funding that is presumed to repay one of the federal loans.”
“New York State must take actions to gain commitments of its proposed federal loan repayment source,” the USDOT spokesperson said. “New Jersey Transit needs to take actions to implement the Gateway Surcharge fare increase on transit passengers traveling through the Hudson Tunnels that is assumed as a repayment source to another of the federal loans. The project partners must develop a firm and final cost, scope and schedule. In addition, the State of New York recently approved a new $1 billion per year tax on commuters via a new congestion pricing program in New York City; this program is estimated to generate over $15 billion available for capital transit projects. However, not a single cent of this $15 billion will be available for the Hudson Tunnel project.”
“We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Department of Transportation continuously fails to recognize the urgency around the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel Projects, and the commitment and ongoing work by the local partners to get them done,” Jerry Zaro, GDC Chairman, told NJBIZ in an email.
“The financial applications that have been submitted were updated to specifically meet FTA’s critiques, including the commitment of $600 million from the State of New Jersey for the Portal North Bridge, which exceeds the 30 percent local match threshold to advance to the engineering phase. The Hudson Tunnel Project rating ignores more than $5.5 billion that has been committed by the States of New York and New Jersey, including $2.7 billion in the Port Authority capital plan which alone exceeds the critical 30 percent local match threshold. These are projects of national significance. The funding commitments and all the required work from local partners is there. There is bi-partisan support in Congress and more than $1 billion in appropriated monies that can be used toward these projects. All that is missing is a Federal partner willing to work with us to rebuild a vital part of America’s infrastructure,” Zaro said.