President Joe Biden visited New York City Tuesday to announce a nearly $300 million federal infrastructure grant for the Gateway Tunnel project — funding a concrete casing underneath Hudson Yards that will eventually lead Amtrak trains from Penn Station to a new tube under the Hudson River.
Joined by virtually all of New York and New Jersey’s political movers-and-shakers underground at Hudson Yards, the president touted $292 million in funding, authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for the final section of concrete casing under Manhattan’s west side to bring trains from Penn Station to the new underwater tunnels.
“All told, this is one of the biggest and most consequential projects in the country,” the president said before an audience of dignitaries, reporters, and railroad workers. “It’s going to take time, it’s a multi-billion effort between states and the federal government. But we finally have the money and we’re going to get it done, I promise you, we’re going to get it done.”
The grant, under the auspices of the administration’s “Mega” program, will fund half of the final section of casing; Section 3 will run diagonally from 11th Avenue to 30th Street, and will connect to the prior two sections completed in 2013 and 2016.
The casing will represent the first major component of the massive $16 billion Gateway project to construct new tunnels under the Hudson for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest passenger rail line.
“This is just the beginning of finally constructing a 21st century rail system that’s long, long overdue in this country,” said Biden. “This project is critical to transforming the Northeast Corridor, increasing speeds, capacity, reliability, and safety.”
It’s also a marquee item of the Biden administration’s plan for an “infrastructure decade” of replacing and revitalizing the nation’s old, crumbling infrastructure.
President Biden laid out in stark terms what sitting by idly and twiddling the proverbial thumb would mean for New York commuters in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s the busiest corridor in the United States of America and one of the busiest in the world,” Biden noted. “And a problem anywhere along the line means delays up-and-down the east coast for folks trying to get to work, businesses trying to ship goods, travelers trying to get to see their families.”
The new tunnels will supplement the existing 113-year-old tubes which sustained colossal damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The new tubes will double Amtrak’s ridership capacity on the critical juncture of the Northeast Corridor, the administration says.
Preliminary work on the megaproject came to a screeching halt under Donald Trump, and the project’s cost has ballooned several times and is not forecast for completion until 2038.
But one-by-one on Tuesday, the Big Apple’s top officials feted “Amtrak Joe” as the savior of both Gateway and of railroad service in the New York region.
“We’re excited because this is a milestone. This means things are starting to happen,” Governor Kathy Hochul said before the president took the stage. “No more talk. We had four presidents, five governors, had a lot of talk.”
New York and New Jersey, plus the Port Authority, have agreed to split half the tunnel’s costs down the middle, with the feds picking up the rest of the tab. Last year, Biden and New Jersey officials broke ground on the new $900 million Portal North Bridge, a crucial component of Gateway on the western side of the Hudson.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, perhaps Washington’s fiercest advocate for Gateway, said that Biden was unique among commanders-in-chief in assuring the project would actually get built, after more than a decade of false starts.
“With today’s new dollars, Gateway’s future is assured. Finally, finally, finally, we can say Gateway will be built,” said Schumer. “Hooray, hooray, hooray, here comes Gateway.”
Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, also took the opportunity to throw shade at Republican officials who had stonewalled the project, including former President Trump and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who infamously canceled a previous iteration of the project just two years before Hurricane Sandy clobbered the tunnels.
“When I started talking about Gateway more than a decade ago, there were a lot of people who refused to see the light,” Schumer quipped. “We all remember Governor Christie abruptly pulling the plug on the first iteration of Gateway, one of the worst decisions that any governor on either side of the Hudson has made.”
Hudson Yards was just one stop for Biden on a multi-state tour highlighting major investments in aging but critical infrastructure. The president visited Maryland on Monday to tout a project replacing a Baltimore tunnel dating back to the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant in 1873. On Friday, he and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Philadelphia to discuss a project to replace that city’s lead pipes.
At Hudson Yards, Biden also highlighted other projects getting infrastructure funding in the five boroughs. The feds will support the expansion of refrigerated warehouse space at the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, where 60% of New York’s fruits and vegetables travel through before ending up on plates. Also on the docket is the redevelopment of the port at Staten Island’s Arthur Kill, which will become an assembly facility for wind turbines.
“Folks, it’s about damn time. For too long, we’ve talked about asserting American leadership once again, building the best economy in the world,” Biden said. “But to have the best economy in the world, you have to have the best infrastructure in the world.”