Gateway Tunnel gets good enough rating from feds to keep going

The old rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
Christopher Leaman/US DOT

The federal government deemed the Gateway Tunnel project between New York and New Jersey worthy to move through the process of getting cash from Washington, officials announced last week.

The $11 billion scheme to build two new rail tunnels beneath the Hudson while repairing century-old existing tubes got a “medium-high” rating from the Federal Transit Administration, the second-highest designation.

“The Gateway Tunnel project has just secured a positive rating at the FTA, and it is just huge because it means the billions we secured for this project are that much closer to being put to work,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement on Jan. 20.

The tunnels will expand train capacity between New York’s Penn Station and Secaucus in the Garden State on Amtrak and NJ Transit lines, and the current 112-year-old structures they were inundated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey project still needs to complete more steps before moving into the penultimate phase of the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants program, known as Engineering.

CIG money funds the construction or expansion of transit projects around the country.

The MTA’s Second Avenue Subway extension to East Harlem rolled into Engineering on Jan. 6 and Washington told New York transit officials they plan to pay $3.4 billion out of that project’s $6.3 billion bill, the Daily News reported.  

Half of the cost of Gateway will be carried by the two states, while officials are hoping to get money from President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which includes $23 billion over five years for transit expansions.

The ratings are based on factors like population density around stations, the number of daily trips, current capacity.

CIG applicants must maintain at least a “medium” rating or better to get funding.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who promoted Gateway with Schumer at Penn Station last June, called out the project in a news release.

“The Hudson Tunnel Project will enable a safe, comfortable commute for hundreds of thousands of Americans currently traveling through a tunnel that was built more than 110 years ago,” he said.