Readers Write: Another MTA project without funding

The recent appointment of former U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John D. Porcari as interim director of the Gateway Development Corporation without billions in accompanying significant financial resources is little more than a press release.  

Previously in his career, Pocari served as Chairman of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation.  

Since the 1990s, there has been little real physical progress in construction of the promised new NYC Amtrak Station located in old 33rd Street 8th Avenue Farley Building Post Office.  

Why should anyone not believe that the Gateway Tunnel will suffer the same fate?  

The proposed $24 billion Gateway Tunnel project may end up dead just like its predecessor — New Jersey Transit’s Access to the Regions Core. 

The recent announcement by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary James Fox that up to $4 billion in Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding might become available to help fund the proposed $24 billion Gateway Tunnel project still leaves a shortfall of $8 billion in federal and $20 billion in total project costs.  

There is no guarantee that these funds will actually be authorized and appropriated by future sessions of Congress and signed into law by future Presidents.  

The project would have to complete a competitive U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration New Starts process, which takes several years before being approved under a Full Funding Grant Agreement.   

One year after the Gateway Tunnel project was first announced, there are still unresolved issues. 

All of the parties involved including U.S. DOT, Amtrak, Federal Rail Road Administration, New Jersey and New York have yet to finalize ongoing discussions to support the actual legal creation of the Gateway Development Corporation. 

This body would actually manage funding from various sources along with construction.  

U.S. DOT Secretary of Transportation Fox, Senators Booker and Schumer still need to actually deliver $4 billion in FTA New Starts Funding over the coming years and somehow find another $8 billion to fully fund the $12 billion federal share.  

Governors Cuomo and Christie still have failed to identify and secure the specific source for the irrespective $6 billion financial contributions to the project. 

There are no significant dollars programmed in the new Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act for Gateway. 

It is wishful thinking that the US DOT FTA New Starts program and Amtrak can come up with $12 billion for Washington’s share of this project.  

This legislation now affords rail and mass transit eligibility for FTA New Starts funding.  

The largest FTA New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreement was $2.6 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road east side access to Grand Central Terminal.  

Federal Railroad Administration Financing Loans generally never exceed $1 billion.  

There are dozens of other potential U.S. DOT FTA New Starts projects being championed by many of the other 98 Senators and 435 Congress members. 

The requests far exceed any available current or future New Starts funding. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York City Department of Transportation and others from the Metropolitan New York Region all have their own respective projects competing against each other and the Gateway Tunnel for billions in New Starts funding over coming years.

Amtrak still needs billions to fully implement real high speed rail on the northeast corridor between Washington, New York City and Boston.  

This doesn’t include routine State of Good Repair, Safety, fleet equipment replacement and upgrades to the East River Tunnels.    

The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is still insolvent.  

Moody’s Investor Services previously questioned the ability of New Jersey to come up with its $6 billion share of the project cost.  

Others question how New York can find $6 billion for its share as well.  

 

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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