Readers Write: Still no daylight for Gateway Tunnel

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New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo naming their representatives to the Gateway Development Corporation board of directors will do little to advance the new Hudson River Gateway Tunnel project.

Creation of  the Gateway Development Corporation duplicates the work of New Jersey Transit, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Amtrak.  Each has experienced staff who know how to manage both the project and receipt of federal funding.

It will only result in the creation of another bureaucracy duplicating existing transportation agencies and their staff.  All four agencies already have their own veteran engineers, operations planning, procurement, legal, force account, quality assurance and quality control, financial and the civil rights employees necessary to manage the  Portal Bridge, new Hudson River tunnels and rehab of existing Hudson River tunnels.

They have successfully managed numerous Super Storm Sandy projects along with other Federal Transit Administration New Starts, formula and local funded capital projects. Since NJ Transit runs 90 percent or more of service between the Portal Bridge and Penn Station, they should manage Gateway.

The proposed $9.5 billion new Hudson River Tunnel and $1.8 billion repairs to the existing tunnels damaged by 2012 Super Storm Sandy combined are looking for $5.4 billion in Federal Transit Administration  New Starts funding in 2020 under a Full Funding Grant Agreement.

This is more realistic than the previous $29 billion with a $14.5 billion federal share. Gateway advocates forgot the competing MTA Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 project.  This proposal will cost closer to $7 billion, looking for between $3 and $3.5 billion from the same federal source.

The odds of both securing an FTA Full Funding Grant Agreements are the same as the Giants playing the Jets in the Super Bowl.  The FTA funding both projects in 2020 would leave little for many other proposed New Starts projects around the nation.

Starting in January 2021, New Jersey motorists entering Manhattan south of 60th Street starting will have to pay a congestion price toll.  Murphy should ask for a 10% share using these dollars toward Gateway.

There are other federal and local funding opportunities for Gateway.  New Jersey Transit receives almost $1 billion and MTA $1.4 billion in annual Federal Transit Administration funding outside of the New Starts process. Allocate some of these funds toward Gateway.  Both can request the Federal Highway Administration transfer Congestion Mitigation Air Quality and other flexible funds to FTA for Gateway.  Use some of the NJ State Transportation Trust funds for Gateway.

Ask Amtrak to increase its $1.6 billion contribution.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2.

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