U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told lawmakers that the Gateway rail tunnel linking New York and New Jersey is of national significance and as such, the Biden administration is prioritizing the project.
“This is a regional issue, but one of national significance because if there were a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it,” Buttigieg told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Crains New York Business reported that Buttigieg provided lawmakers with his first update of the project. The project was stalled by former President Donald Trump who in 2018 threatened to shut down the government if a spending bill directed federal funding for the tunnel. Gateway was ineligible for federal taxpayer money, the Trump administration said, because New York and New Jersey hadn’t pledged enough cash.
Buttigieg said the Federal Rail Administration and Federal Transit Administration are working with New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as with Amtrak and the Gateway Development Commission, on updates to a draft environmental impact statement issued in 2017.
The impact statement is “a big part of what needs to be completed in order to get there,” Buttigieg said. The process involves reviewing anything that might have changed since the draft was issued, and coordinating with other federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as state agencies that might have jurisdiction, he said.
Angelo Roefaro, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Buttigieg has indicated to the New York Democrat that the environmental review will be approved in May.
“I’ve said that the new administration could break Trump’s petty Gateway roadblock with the ‘flick of a pen,’” Schumer said in a statement. “The Biden administration and Secretary Buttigieg have picked up that pen and heeded the call to free the ‘hostage’ that is Gateway.”
The tunnel would carry Amtrak and New Jersey Transit commuter trains under the Hudson River. Amtrak says it will allow for twice as many trains to run under the Hudson River, including those that are part of its Northeast Corridor service that connects Boston, New York and Washington.
“The FTA is working closely with project sponsors as it advances through the capital investment grant process prescribed in law, which is obviously an important part of the picture when it comes to funding,” Buttigieg said.
The Gateway Development Commission said in a statement after the hearing that “we applaud Secretary Buttigieg’s public commitment to the Gateway Program, particularly confirming that the Hudson Tunnel Project is a project ‘of national significance’ and setting a rapid timeline for completing the project’s environmental review.”
The commission said it’s working with local and federal partners to complete the environmental review and improve the project’s grant rating, “so we can start full construction and finally replace a 110-year-old one-track-in, one-track-out delay prone tunnel with a 21st Century rail link between New York, New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast Corridor.”