Somewhat oddly, because why now and why not earlier, momentum on a new trans-Hudson tunnel continues to build. Construction may be a few years away (even though low interest rates would make lining up funding now a great idea), but the politics are falling into place. On Monday, we learned that the feds were considering a plan to create a new entity to oversee the project, and today, we find out that’s just exactly what’s going to happen, although the Port Authority will have more of a role in this than originally anticipated.
Additionally, following a September offer from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to have the two states pay 25 percent each and the feds pay 50, the funding scheme may be in place too, and it will look exactly as proposed. It’s not a bad deal for the states as they shift most of the funding to the feds, but it’s still not clear how much this project will cost or when it can begin.
The details of the partnership will be unveiled tomorrow, but Emma Fitzsimmons broke the news in The Times on Wednesday night. She writes:
Federal and state officials announced an agreement on Wednesday to create a corporation within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to oversee long-awaited plans to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
The entity, called the Gateway Development Corporation, will coordinate the project and assemble the billions of dollars needed to pay for it. It will be controlled by a four-member board with representatives from New York, New Jersey, Amtrak and the federal Transportation Department.
As part of the agreement, the federal government and Amtrak said they would be responsible for financing half of the project, which could cost as much as $20 billion. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, had pushed for the cost-splitting and said the two states would line up the money for the other half.
The announcement, from the governors and Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats, signaled the most significant progress yet on an effort federal officials have called one of the most important infrastructure proposals in the country. The century-old rail tunnel used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit that runs under the river is deteriorating and needs repairs because of damage by Hurricane Sandy.
In comments to The Wall Street Journal, various stakeholders seemed optimistic Gateway would become a reality. “Our shovels are ready. Literally, if you don’t build this tunnel, you would greatly imperil train service,” Cuomo said, apparently channelling Chris Traeger. Amtrak Chair Anthony Coscia called the move “a real turning point.”
What the Gateway Development Corporation likely does not include is a cost-control mandate. Even if the new corporation can issue bonds, no one has mentioned spending reform or any effort to drive down the project costs. We may well get our tunnel yet, but at what cost?