U.S. Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee during a confirmation hearing that the Biden administration plans to move forward on a new $11.6 billion Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River, connection New York and New Jersey.
The new tunnel would be built alongside an existing tunnel that is nearly 100 years old and in desperate need of repair or replacement. The tunnels were to be part of a $30 billion infrastructure overall to modernize the Northeast Corridor rail line in around New York City and New Jersey. That overhaul was largely stalled by the Trump administration.
The comments from Buttigieg contrasted with those of his predecessor, Elaine Chao, who complained to the same panel in March 2018 about what she said was a public campaign “to bully the department, to pressure the federal government” to fund the new train tunnel under the Hudson River.
NJ.com reported that Former President Donald Trump, at one point threaten to shut down the government rather than approve any federal funding for Gateway.
Buttigieg was answering a question from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who talked about the need to repair the 111-year-old tunnels, that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Blumenthal also questioned Chao at that earlier hearing.
“The tunnels are decrepit, degrading and about to potentially collapse,” Blumenthal told Buttigieg. “I’d like your commitment that you will move this project, which is essential to all rail traffic and indeed all transportation in the Northeast.”
“I’ve heard this loud and clear from you and your colleagues and counterparts in the region,” Buttigieg responded, “and look forward to working with you on this to move forward.”
Biden, who as a U.S. senator from Delaware was a frequent Amtrak user, supported Gateway during the campaign.
His infrastructure plan called for “putting the Northeast Corridor on higher speeds and shrinking the travel time from D.C. to New York by half – and build in conjunction with it a new, safer Hudson River Tunnel.”
The Trump administration lowered Gateway’s rating, making the tunnel ineligible for federal funding, even as it supported construction of a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. That agreement was signed during the final days of his administration.
The Gateway Program Development Corporation hopes to have a new tunnel completed by 2028.
As reported by Bloomberg, Schumer hinted at the favorable prospects of the tunnel project receiving funding in a recent video call with reporters and members of The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization fighting for improved—read: affordable and more reliable—public transit in New York.
During the call, Schumer said that is working with the Biden administration and Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg to “unleash” $12 billion that would be made available to the Gateway Program. Per Bloomberg, Schumer also relayed during the call that he has implored Buttigieg to give the Metropolitan Transit Authority federal guidance on moving forward with a Manhattan congestion pricing scheme that will help to foot the bills of billions of dollars in other transit-related projects.
The Senate secured $1 billion in federal funding for the Gateway Program in 2015. However, the Gateway Program Development Corporation has been waiting for further funding—and a decidedly non-antagonistic presidential administration—to tap into it and begin the various necessary federal review processes per Gothamist.