With Sandy money flowing New York City’s way, Senator Chuck Schumer was able to wrangle enough dollars earlier this year to launch part of the Gateway Tunnel. Specifically, the state’s senior senator secured the $185 million needed to preserve Gateway’s right-of-way under the Hudson Yards development under the rubric of flood prevention. Yesterday, officials gathered to celebrate the ground-breaking of this monumental concrete box that may, years and billions of dollars in the future, host a new trans-Hudson train tunnel for Amtrak.
“The value of the work on this concrete casing cannot be underestimated as it preserves a possible pathway for new tunnels designed to increase the reliability and capacity for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit’s operations and will step up the resiliency of the rail system against severe weather events like Super Storm Sandy,” Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia said.
This current construction effort is a two-year project to build a casing between 10th and 11th Avenues in order to save what Amtrak called a “possible right-of-way” for two new tunnels into Penn Station. It is slated to be completed in October of 2015. When or if Gateway and the corresponding Moynihan Station plan will ever see the light of day remains to be seen.
Interestingly, the Sandy part of this picture could spur Amtrak and the feds to action though. As the rail agency detailed in its press release, the storm surge from Sandy flooded four of the six tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers. This is the first time in their 103-year history that the tunnels were inundated, and nearly 600,000 daily riders on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit saw their commutes disrupted. The casing, wide enough for a two-track train tunnel, will be flood-proof, though Amtrak’s materials do not explain how.
Before Gateway can become a reality, Amtrak will have to replace the Portal Bridge and extend the concrete casing to the west to 12th Avenue, but the region’s politicians remain ever hopeful. “Today’s groundbreaking is about so much more than making way for the Amtrak Gateway tunnels,” New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said. “It’s about celebrating a $185 million investment in our future, in keeping our competitive edge in the New Jersey-New York area, in our preparedness against severe weather events like Super Storm Sandy. We can’t be satisfied with a 19th century infrastructure in a 21st century world and expect to stay competitive in a high-tech, fast-paced, global economy. For the growth of the entire region, it’s critical that we invest in new rail tunnels across the Hudson.”