Senator Charles Schumer is prophesying a “night and day” difference for the stalled Gateway Tunnel project once President-elect Joe Biden takes to the Oval Office.
Schumer described President Donald Trump’s actions toward the project as a political attack on the northeast economy by blocking infrastructure funds over the past four years will be in the past as Amtrak’s only two existing Hudson River tunnels age, meaning access to the city from broader sections of the region will remain.
“For four years now, the Trump Administration has held the Gateway Project and repair to the aging tunnels as a hostage for the purposes of some perceived leverage over me, and that never worked. The strategy only hurt New York and the nation’s economy,” Schumer said. “With a Biden Administration set to take the reins, we can free this hostage, use the billions already secured and once and for all move forward on this urgently-needed infrastructure project.”
According to Schumer, despite the president’s alleged best efforts, the senate was able to secure up to $1.4 billion for the Gateway project overall between 2018 and 2019. The senator plans to continue to push to advance the Federal Railroad Administration’s approval of the Gateway Tunnel project’s Environmental Impact Study.
Responding to Schumer’s statements Monday was Larry Penner, a transportation advocate previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office until retirement. Penner disputed claims made by Schumer in the press conference that funding would be free-flowing “at the flick of a pen” for the project once Biden, who has committed to moving the process forward, takes office.
“In the words Senator Schumer that he used at his news conference today, the only way that funds can be released with ‘the flick of a pen’ is if the Gateway Development Corporation submitted proposed grant applications to the Federal Transit Administration for New Starts or Core Capacity Full Funding Grant Agreement grants,” Penner said. “Once FTA concurs that the proposed project(s) contained within the proposed grant application has met all the agencies’ requirements including issuance of the environmental finding, a grant number would be provided and the grant formally submitted. (This process can take many months to a year, depending upon the complexity of the proposal).”
According to Schumer, the House and the Senate have secured up to $1.3 billion for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor account, $5.1 billion for Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant like New Starts, $1.5 billion for FRA grant programs, and more than $280 million.
All these can be accessed to advance the project, Schumer said.