NYC Rail Project Heads for ‘Point of No Return’ Before Election

(Bloomberg) -- A long-delayed $16 billion rail tunnel project connecting New York and New Jersey is planned to cross the last hurdle to secure federal funding ahead of the US presidential election.

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The project’s sponsor, the Gateway Development Commission, set a target to secure the final signatures for federal funding by the end of summer, shrugging off concerns that changes in the oval office could once again thwart construction. Over a decade ago, a predecessor project was scrapped by then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“We aren’t even waiting for a full funding grant agreement, we are already under construction. That shows a level of confidence we have that this project is already in a point of no return,” Kris Kolluri, Gateway Development Commission chief executive officer, said Tuesday when speaking with reporters. “What we need is the final signature in a full funding grant agreement.”

Gateway is expected to receive roughly $12 billion from the federal government and once the project secures the full funding agreement it will enter into the formal contract with the federal government, securing the final financial commitment needed for the project.

The project is meant to ease congestion under the Hudson River with a new tunnel and upgrades to the more than a century-old existing tunnel. It’s also a critical update for the Northeast corridor — Amtrak’s busiest route — which carries more than 2,200 daily trains and stretching from Washington to Boston.

“The value of this project, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, is without question, a very powerful argument,” Kolluri said. “It’s imperative to get these agreements signed in the next 60 to 90 days.”

When the project was canceled by Christie in 2010, the former New Jersey governor said the state couldn’t afford it. The Gateway project was proposed a year later but eventually stalled under the Trump administration.

“Once the federal government signs a full funding grant agreement that is a solid the commitment of the federal government that they’re going to fund this,” Kolluri said, when asked if he was concerned about Trump disrupting the funding if reelected.

The massive project includes construction of a new underwater tunnel as well as replacement of the existing one that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The start of major construction, is expected to begin in July, with tunnel fully completed in 2035. New York is committing about $1.34 billion to the project, New Jersey around $308 million and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey $2.68 billion.

The Gateway tunnel is one of a number of efforts to revamp the nation’s roads, rail and bridges that President Joe Biden has been touting around the country. Biden, the nation’s most prominent train lover, said the project is key for the entire Northeast region.

Kolluri said that once the agreement with the federal government is signed, the main priority will shift to project construction management.

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