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Metro area needs Trump to get aboard tunnel plan

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River Tunnel in North Bergen, N.J. Under Amtrak's proposed Gateway project, a new Hudson River tunnel will be built so the existing North River Tunnel can be repaired. The improvements would create capacity to allow the doubling of passenger trains under the Hudson River. Photo Credit: Amtrak

President Donald Trump should know just how critically important the Gateway project is.

After decades working in New York City real estate, Trump likely knows the two deteriorating, century-old train tunnels between New York and New Jersey threaten economic disaster and paralysis for the region and the nation. The Hudson River tunnels carry trains for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest railroad, and for NJ Transit, which averages 90,000 boardings a day at Penn Station.

Despite Trump’s emphasis on infrastructure and job growth, the president has yet to commit to federal funding for half of the $30 billion Gateway project, which would include a new train tunnel to replace one badly damaged in superstorm Sandy, repairs to the other tunnel, a rebuilt New Jersey rail bridge to the tunnels and additional track capacity.

After much delay, Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo and Chris Christie reached a deal with President Barack Obama to split the cost 50-50 between the federal government and the two states. Now the two governors need Trump’s support, and soon. Construction is to start next year, with the tunnel’s completion set for 2026.

Now there’s talk of progress. Trump met with the two governors, Sens. Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, and Rep. Peter King at the White House on Sept. 7. He was “receptive,” Schumer said. Trump didn’t balk at the cost and seemed to understand the project’s import, King said. Cuomo, however, called the meeting “inconclusive.”

This is Trump’s chance to be conclusive. He should restore funding to the federal New Starts grant program on which Gateway depends. In what might be a new moment for bipartisanship, backing Gateway is the perfect next step and perhaps even the gateway to a larger infrastructure plan.

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