NY-NJ pledge on rail tunnel is a breakthrough

Could it be?

Could it be?

Could someone actually be turning attention and money to . . . wait for it . . . trains and train tunnels?

In the case of the Gateway Project tunnel between New York and New Jersey, it’s two someones — Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.

Both finally are recognizing just how important this particular piece of infrastructure is. They’re offering to pay half the cost of a new rail tunnel between their states, a link critical to the entire Northeast, and asking the federal government to pony up the other half. That’s a significant ask for a project costing up to $20 billion.

But if the project isn’t done, the price tag would be far larger. The new tunnel is critical to both states and the nation. A shutdown of the existing tunnel could paralyze Amtrak’s essential Northeast Corridor — the busiest railroad in the nation. The economic impact could be devastating. Add on NJ Transit’s 90,000 boardings a day to and from Penn Station, and the ripple effect grows.

The current push comes five years after Christie rejected federal funding for a similar effort, citing concerns over cost overruns. He then used the funds New Jersey originally committed to the project to plug his own budget holes.

After massive delays on NJ Transit this summer, Christie changed his mind. Cuomo eventually came on board, even after shirking responsibility last month. Getting a new rail tunnel is going to take lots of time. The states must figure out the financial details. There’ll be federal approvals, environmental studies, and designing and permitting — all before any shovel breaks ground. Christie and Cuomo took far too long to finally react, but now they’ve taken the first step. They’ve got to put this project on a fast track. The federal government has to commit the other half of the funding, and help make it happen.

It’s clear what can happen when trains, tracks and tunnels are left in disrepair. Last week’s G train subway derailment is just the latest example. Mayor Bill de Blasio has to take a page out of the governors’ playbook — and commit the city’s share to the MTA’s still-unfunded capital plan.

The Editorial Board