The mega-project to build a new commuter rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River and rehabilitate century-old tubes ravaged by Superstorm Sandy will take three years longer and could cost $2 billion more than previously planned, officials from New York and New Jersey said.
The cost of the Hudson Tunnel Project ballooned to $16.1 billion from $14.1 billion and its completion date is set for 2038 instead of 2035, according a Wednesday evening release by the Gateway Development Commission.
The GDC is the bi-state public authority charged with overseeing the Gateway Program to upgrade train infrastructure between the two states along the busiest section of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the most heavily-used passenger rail line in the country.
The tunnel sits at the center of the program and includes construction of a new 2.4-mile, two-track set of tubes from the Garden State to Penn Station by 2035, after which officials will renovate the existing 112-year-old decaying tunnel, also housing two tracks, over three years.
Amtrak owns the 1910 North River tunnel and shares the rails with New Jersey Transit. Both railroads run about 425 trains carrying 200,000 passengers every weekday.
The storm damage to its electrical and mechanical infrastructure can cause signal malfunctions and disabled trains, and one of the two tubes going out of action would result in 75% service cuts during peak hours.
The federal government is set to pay for half of the project, while the remainder will be covered by both states and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Major construction on the new tubes will start in the fall of 2024, instead of 2023, under the new timeline.
GDC officials blamed the price hike and delays on inflation, rising interest rates, the project’s stagnation under former President Donald Trump, and adding more time for any unexpected snags.
“The cost and schedule for the Hudson Tunnel Project must be based on the reality of the economic environment and consistent with the methodology and requirements for receiving Federal funding. That is the work we have done here, to be transparent and to provide the public and our partners with a new cost estimate and a roadmap to get full construction started,” said Alicia Glen the GDC board’s co-chair from New York.
Governor Kathy Hochul hailed the announcement as a step forward for the project.
“When I took office I vowed to get the Hudson Tunnel Project not just on track but over the finish line, and today marks an important step in moving this transformative project forward,” Hochul said in a statement. “We remain committed to making investments to deliver 21st century infrastructure worthy of New Yorkers.”
Authority officials hope to trim the higher cost back again by $1.7 billion with federal grants from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Last summer, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer toured the decrepit tunnel with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the politician said at the time the project was moving “full speed ahead” under the new White House administration, adding that he would work to move construction start up to 2022.
A spokesperson for Schumer said the project remains on track.
“There is no doubt about it, despite the gratuitous and petty political delays delivered by President Trump, the Gateway Project is moving ahead and Senator Schumer has secured billions to see it through,” said Angelo Roefaro.