Cuomo heads to White House to discuss Gateway Program

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with the Trump administration to advocate for the Gateway Program.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with the Trump administration to advocate for the Gateway Program. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will be traveling to the White House Thursday to discuss the Gateway Program and the importance of repairing regional rail infrastructure with the Trump administration.

Cuomo is expected to be joined by other elected officials from New York and New Jersey to help score half of the funding for Gateway. Billed as the largest and most important transit project in the northeast, the $23.9 billion Gateway Program would dig a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

The current, two-tube tunnel under the Hudson that serves about 200,000 riders each day was badly damaged during superstorm Sandy. If one tube fails before a new tunnel is built, capacity in the tunnel would be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak.

“This is a vital and critical project for the entire northeast,” Cuomo said. “Those tunnels go down, there is no Amtrak service to the entire northeast of the United States.”

Officials and transit advocates have feared for months that the administration isn’t giving enough priority to Gateway. This March, President Donald Trump’s office released a budget proposal that would limit the grant program New Starts, which was expected to play an important role in funding Gateway. A few months slater, the U.S. Department of Transportation left the Gateway Development Corp., the group overseeing the project “as a procedural matter to avoid potential conflicts,” a spokesman for the department said at the time.

“This is an act of negligence of government that there should be this delay,” Cuomo said. “I think the federal government has squandered months, if not years, waiting for this project to begin.”

Estimates for the tunnel project, which is one component of the entire program, have increased from $7.7 billion to nearly $13 billion, according to a recently released report by the Federal Railroad Administration and New Jersey Transit. Cuomo said the price tag can’t get in the way of funding.

“Sometimes you don’t have a choice in life,” Cuomo said. “The tunnel is collapsing. You have two choices: to replace the tunnel, or buy a big boat.”