Home Gateway Tunnel From Schumer, a two-state solution for the trans-Hudson problem

From Schumer, a two-state solution for the trans-Hudson problem

by Benjamin Kabak
A glimpse at the Gateway Project area. Click to enlarge. (Via Amtrak)

A glimpse at the Gateway Project area. Click to enlarge. (Via Amtrak)

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo stomps his feet and yells, “It’s not my tunnel,” one of New York’s other politicians has proposed a two-state solution for the trans-Hudson rail tunnel issue that may just provide the faint glimmer of a way forward. However, the divide between New York and New Jersey — let alone the feds — on the issue is nearly as wide as the Hudson River itself, and billions remain to be appropriated before we can start celebrating the launch of a new tunnel.

In speaking at NYU’s Rudin Center yesterday, Schumer called for a new agency that would oversee the project. The Senior Senator from New York feels that this new agency would best be able to tap into sources of funding that Amtrak can’t reach and New York and New Jersey aren’t eligible for under the current set-up. Left unsaid is the belief emanating from Washington that the Port Authority, a pre-existing, two-state, trans-Hudson body, isn’t the right organization to be involved with this project. Considering the corruption at the PA arising out of both Cuomo’s and Christie’s dealings with it and the PA’s inability to handle basic problems, I can’t say I blame anyone for the skepticism.

Jillian Jorgensen was on hand for The Observer, and she offered up this take on Schumer’s speech:

Cooperation is necessary, he said—and to that end he proposed a new partnership, dubbed the Gateway Development Corporation, which would bring together the key players in the project: New York, New Jersey, the Port Authority, the MTA, Amtrak, and the federal government. “Without a single agency directing traffic, Gateway could only move forward one inch at a time, grant-by-grant, undertaken by the separate agencies in a piecemeal fashion. That makes a project such as this, with so many moving parts—and a rigid chronology of construction—extraordinarily difficult,” Mr. Schumer said in his remarks. “Input should come from all parties—everyone should have a seat at the table—but the planning and financing and implementation of Gateway should be driven by one conductor: the development corporation.”

In addition to making it easier to direct the program, Mr. Schumer also argued a development corporation would make it easier to pay for it, by allowing various agencies to tap into funding other agencies involved can’t touch. “Amtrak can’t access federal mass transit funding. The Port Authority and regional Transit Agencies can’t access federal railroad dollars the way Amtrak can,” Mr. Schumer said. “We’ll only get Gateway done by adding up several pieces of financing, with an eye toward getting the maximum amount possible from the federal government.”

…Of course, Mr. Schumer had his ideas on how to pay for the project—and, like the governors, he is looking at the feds to provide most of the cash, in part by using profits from Amtrak’s lucrative Northeast Corridor, which presently is used to prop up far-flung Amtrak routes that don’t generate a profit. “There is a bipartisan move in Congress to allow Amtrak to cordon-off the profits it makes on the Northeast Corridor, and use it for capital investment on that corridor. It keeps the money in the Northeast and reinvests it,” Mr. Schumer said.

Schumer’s proposal is the first concrete one that involves a federal representative acknowledging that the federal government needs to take the political and funding lead on this issue. Whether Schumer can collaborate with Republican majorities in the House and Senate on a northeast infrastructure project remains to be seen, and the fallout among Democrats from his opposition to the Iran deal is also unclear. Still, it’s a start, and as Dana Rubinstein reported, the Senator earned praise for his leadership from transit advocates and White House officials alike.

Even Cuomo had something almost nice to say. “I commend Sen. Schumer for making these tunnels a national priority,” the governor said in a statement. “We both agree that they will require significant federal investment and I look forward to working with him to move this critical project forward.”

Yet, even Schumer couldn’t resist some trans-Hudson sniping, and therein lies the rub. During his speech, he jabbed Christie for the ARC cancellation. “There is a special burden on Governor Christie to lobby his party in Congress to move in our direction on infrastructure funding,” Schumer said. “For one, he cancelled the first effort at fixing the tunnels. But far more importantly, the vast majority of riders who use these tunnels, 80 percent, are New Jersey residents who come into the city via New Jersey Transit.” Christie’s office again repeated the spurious claim that no one would help them with cost overruns (when in fact the feds had offered to help), but that’s neither here nor there. To move forward, the parties are going to have to work together and move beyond finger-pointing for something that happened five years ago.

It’s not entirely clear what the next steps are. New York and New Jersey have to commit to this project with the feds, and the money — Schumer and Amtrak have estimated that the entire Gateway project will be around $25 billion with the tunnel accounting for $14 billion — has to materialize. But as this drama has unfolded lately in press releases, press conferences and policy speeches, there seems to be some movement toward action. I worry about what happens though if nothing happens. Will we engage in five years of finger-pointing before launching this effort anew in 2020? Is Amtrak doomed to wait for a tunnel replacement until the old ones are non-functional? I hope not, but recent history isn’t on our side.

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anon_coward August 12, 2015 - 10:35 am

why can’t amtrak sell the bonds and pay them back with a service fee on tickets in and out of penn as well as leasing capacity to NJ Transit if they want to use them? just like the PA does with the airports?

Chet August 12, 2015 - 10:38 am

Does Amtrak have the legal authority to sell bonds? I don’t think so- Congress would have to grant that.. and since the GOP has hated Amtrak from the day it was born, that would be a hard thing to do.
Note how there is bipartisan support for NEC profits to go back to the NEC only. While that would be great for the NEC, it would hurt Amtrak trains everywhere else.

Eric F August 12, 2015 - 11:27 am

If there was enough potential passenger revenue from a tunnel to service $14 billion in bonds, the tunnel would already be under construction, or done by now.

By the way anyone notice that the true numbers being bandied about are now scraping the $25 billion mark. What was the supposed ARC budget?

Chet August 12, 2015 - 11:37 am

The tunnel is $14 billion. Add in Penn Station, new Portal Bridge, Secaucus Loop and a few other items and you’re at $25 billion.

Bolwerk August 12, 2015 - 12:21 pm

The tunnel is probably closer to $5 billion.

lawhawk August 12, 2015 - 12:28 pm

The Portal Bridge is reportedly around $1 billion for the 2 track replacement North Span and another $1+ billion similar amount for the South Span.


I think some of the costs relate to Moynihan and then to Sunnyside, though some of the latter work is underway.

al August 14, 2015 - 11:10 am

$14-$25 billion Obscene!!!

Dump this on Donald Trump and have him pull another Wollman Rink.

Rob August 12, 2015 - 11:27 am

Of course amtrak can sell bonds, and has done so many times. But the $ required would dwarf what psgrs would be willing to pay.

“GOP has hated Amtrak from the day it was born” — A more informed person would know that it was the GOP that birthed it [nixon admin.].

Chet August 12, 2015 - 11:36 am

Actually, I know exactly when and how Amtrak came about. In fact, while I was young, I remember it happening.
That Nixon signed the legislation is meaningless.

Bolwerk August 12, 2015 - 4:40 pm

If I understand my history right, Amtrak was never intended to survive. It was intended to get private railroads out of the passenger business and then quietly die.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 10:55 pm

Nixon would be denounced as a Communist sympathizer by today’s GOP.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:54 am

Yep. Nixon was very liberal compared to the lunatics running the Republican Party today. Nixon even accepted the idea that rich people should pay taxes.

Anonymous August 13, 2015 - 1:22 pm

Heck, even Saint Ronald accepted that the rich shouldn’t pay less taxes than the poor.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 2:58 pm

Hell, at least on domestic policy, Nixon was to the left of probably every subsequent U.S. president (possible exception: Jimmy Carter).

This is the man that started the war on drugs.

Chris C August 13, 2015 - 5:56 am

And a more informed person would find out that the make up of 1970 Congress that passed the Rail Passenger Service Act was as follows


Dem 243

GOP 192


Dem 57

GOP 43

Rob August 13, 2015 - 8:35 am

note – not enough to override a veto or even stop a filibuster. which if the Repubs ‘hated’, they would have done [filibustered].

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:52 am

Amtrak has the legal authority to sell bonds. Unfortunately, due to Amtrak’s history of needing federal funding and having that funding be *very* unreliable, Amtrak has to pay *very* high interest rates on bonds. So Amtrak really can’t finance this — Amtrak can’t afford to pay 14% or more on bonds.

A different entity could issue bonds at 4% interest or less.

Chet August 12, 2015 - 10:35 am

To build on a comment in the previous post by Walt Gekko, we need a multi-state mess around September 21. As he said, “The time to do that is the following Monday, Sept. 21. Everyone is at work that Monday and Tuesday and many are likely to be working abbreviated weeks (some just Monday and Tuesday) between Yom Kippur starting that Tuesday night, a Muslim holiday that week and the Pope’s visit to Philly at the end of that week when many will be traveling to Philly for that (and Philly is expecting TWO MILLION people for the Pope). Doing it that week would demonstrate clearly what is needed.”

Problems along the 143 year old Baltimore Tunnel, the Portal Bridge, the Hudson Tunnels, some of the bridges in Connecticut (where my mother got stuck on a train to Boston for two hours last month), etc. Bring the entire corridor to a halt for a day or two, and I think we’d see some pretty fast movement on all of this, not just Gateway.

rustonite August 12, 2015 - 11:03 am

So instead of fixing the problems at the PA, we’ll just create a new authority with overlapping responsibility. That seems like it’ll work well.

Michael Romero August 12, 2015 - 12:19 pm

Feds can’t do much about the PA. No one can. It will continue to be a patronage dump that will spend your toll and fare revenue on stupid projects with ballooning costs, and then just hit you up for higher tolls and fares.

This needs a consortium that’s run by the feds with all the different pieces contributing so the right money can be released. If you start it right, with actual transparency, maybe they can get something done.

AG August 12, 2015 - 6:23 pm

Why would you think the feds could do anything about overruns??? The military expeditions have so much graft and underhanded wasteful spending it makes the PA look like amateur wasters of money.

Even the feds dealings with FEMA make the PA seem conservative in their overruns and waste.

Chris C August 13, 2015 - 5:50 am

The PA was authorised by Congress.

It could withdraw that consent. Or make sufficient threats to do so that it is reformed by the Governors.


But creating a relatively short life corporation whose only function is to deliver this project might be the way to go.

It builds the thing and then hands it over to the PA or Amtrak or NJT to manage and maintain.

rustonite August 13, 2015 - 2:52 pm

Federal courts have held in several cases (among them, Mineo v. Port Authority of New York-New Jersey) that once given, consent for an interstate compact cannot be withdrawn or amended without the consent of the states. so, no, Congress cannot make threats to the PA.

Chris C August 13, 2015 - 3:48 pm

Congress makes threats all the time.

Where it has the power too or not makes no difference.

If a chunk of Fed money was going to the PA or Amtrak they could soon attach riders to force them to change how they are organised.

Peter August 12, 2015 - 11:24 am

I find it hard to believe Congress is going to pony up anywhere near $25 billion in direct funding, given Republicans’ general reluctance to spend federal money on anything, and their specific antipathy toward rail transportation. Whatever the feds kick is going is going to be far less than what Cuomo and Christie want, leaving it up to NY and NJ to make up the difference out of their own coffers, with the aid of a federal loan. If Congress can agree to let Amtrak cordon off Northeast Corridor revenues, that would also pave the way for Amtrak to up their own contribution. So is Cuomo willing eat his words and commit NY to a larger financial stake? I find it easier to imagine Christie ponying up more Jersey dough since: 1) Jersey is arguably the most-screwed party if the existing tunnels fail 2) he’s already catching major flak over the ARC decision and 3) his presidential aspirations are cratering, meaning he will be more likely to make decisions for the good of NJ rather than calculated to burnish his national reputation.

Eric F August 12, 2015 - 11:29 am

“given Republicans’ general reluctance to spend federal money on anything”

The federal budget is $4 trillion. How reluctant can they possibly be to spend money. What would be the size of a non-reluctant federal budget?

That said, this is easily a ten-year project. They need $2.5 billion per year.

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 12:11 pm

Anything that’s not tide to the war machine, defense or homeland insecurity.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:57 am

Indeed, Republicans in Congress are happy to set fire to hundreds of billions of dollars — as long as it goes to the military or the spy agencies or giving tanks to the police to shoot protesters.

The Republicans these days are worse than fascists. They’re monarchists. Huge amounts of money to oppress people, but no money for useful stuff.

anon_coward August 12, 2015 - 12:12 pm

if congress needs to spend $25 BILLION on Amtrak, they need to raise ticket prices as well. as it is now, it’s mostly rich and well to do business people riding it and the fare should reflect the cost of operations and infrastructure

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 2:30 pm

In that vain, then highway tolls should reflect the cost of maintaining such roads. in fact based on that argument, the cost of all roads should be born by the user & not by government. Try getting that one past the public.

anon_coward August 12, 2015 - 3:26 pm

highways are paid for by gas taxes as well. state and local roads by gas and property taxes. being that most people drive along with freight and public transportation traveling over roads no one is being ripped off.

airports are paid for by use fees added on to tickets. why can’t trains be paid for the same way? the new laguardia airport is going to be paid for by bonds which are backed by fees tacked on to tickets for flyers traveling through there. same with almost every other airport in the USA

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 3:50 pm

Well then, raise the gas tax to the point it pays for the upkeep of the roads. Oh wait, that’s a sacred cow.

anon_coward August 12, 2015 - 3:52 pm

there is no one gas tax. and state and local roads have always been funded by property and other local taxes.

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 4:17 pm

In some parts of the country, city & county governments are giving up on maintaining secondary roads do to lack of funds. I know of a few places in Texas, in & near Detroit for example where this is happening. It’s amazing how a sizeable portion of voters will let their roads & infrastructure fall apart rather then pay a few bucks to keep them in good shape. It’s the all taxes are bad meme, & it herts everyone.

Theorem Ox August 12, 2015 - 11:38 pm

I think there is more to the story than voters simply being apathetic about the maintenance of roads and infrastructures. At least two sides to most coins… (Though I won’t completely dismiss that point out of hand, as yes I’ve noticed that general apathy and ignorance is on the rise)

It’s possible that residents are too tapped out financially to pay even if they do care for infrastructure. (Most people who do not have the benefit of printing their fiat or otherwise come across large sums of them have been struggling to stay afloat lately)

It’s also possible that the voters are dissatisfied enough with the quality of the job done / frequency commensurate to what they’re being asked to pay. And this can hold true whether or not the voters can afford to pay what’s requested of them. (One example that comes to mind is how the “legacy costs” are playing an increased role in government expenses. Ultimately, tax payers are covering more than just the immediate labor and material costs when taxes and fees are levied)

I’d like to remind that the government does not (and should not) have an exclusive monopoly on maintenance of public roads and infrastructure. If the state of the road warrants work and the government’s DPW (or equivalent) refuses to work on it on a timely basis, residents can get together to repair a commonly used public road themselves to the prevailing standard (if they have the suitable equipment, materials and time). Otherwise, hire a private contractor to do it for them otherwise (and find an equitable way to pay for the privately contracted services and materials).

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:59 am

Most localities have the problem that they can only charge sales taxes (regressive, hit the poor) or property taxes (somewhat progressive, but the billionaires can move their mansions to Aruba and avoid the taxes). This makes it hard to fund public services when the billionaires are stealing all the money.

It’s vital to tax the rich with income taxes, and use *that* to fund public services.

Phantom August 12, 2015 - 3:32 pm

There are plenty of average people that use Amtrak, and as it is Amtrak is often significantly more expensive than Megabus, Boltbus, etc.

And these tracks would be used by NJ Transit, and not only by ” the rich ” either.

anon_coward August 12, 2015 - 3:49 pm

the acela is still cheaper than a flight to DC from LGA. and airline tickets have $40 or more of fees tacked on to pay for the airport, TSA, etc. Amtrak needs to do the same to fund their capital expenses

Phantom August 13, 2015 - 5:12 pm

I’m on the Acela now. Its 90 minutes late on a run from Providence to NY Penn. It’s a most un punctual service. I take it a few times a year, and it’s rarely on time. Next time, might take Megabus, as this train is just not getting it done.

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 4:02 pm

to that point, Greyhound charges $18 NYC to Phili & Amtrak is $92 in coach. The bus takes 2:30 & the train takes 1:25. Even if Megabus & Bolt bus are cheeper, the travel time is the same.

Fares quoted are one way BTW.

lop August 12, 2015 - 4:54 pm

Bolt bus is ~2:00-2:45 depending on time of day. Amtrak is more consistent at ~1:25. A month out bolt bus is $7. Amtrak is $41.

Bolwerk August 12, 2015 - 4:44 pm

In economic terms, Amtrak is the superior good. Of course they can charge higher prices.

What they probably could do is squeeze more people onto coaches and cut tickets prices accordingly. At least for regional rail like DC-NYC.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 10:51 pm

There will be elections in 2016. And 2018. 2020….

Rob August 12, 2015 - 11:24 am

too bad we can’t reincarnate the PRR to build them.

“…profits from Amtrak’s lucrative Northeast Corridor” is an inane statement. Maybe operating profits, but they are DWARFED by nec capital expenses/requirements.

Theorem Ox August 12, 2015 - 11:50 pm

You’re probably going to have to reincarnate the oligarchs who still had something of a public service/good aspect while they ruthlessly built and expanded their assets and wealth.

We’re not going to go anywhere with a revived PRR operated by the current crop of oligarchs who operate under the principle of asset stripping (although that’s quickly becoming overshadowed by those running things completely by their imaginations and damn the real life consequences)

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:00 am

The 19th century oligarchs who had somewhat of a public service mentality were people who had the fear of communist revolution on their minds. Our current idiot oligarchs need to be afraid of communist revolution too.

Alon Levy August 13, 2015 - 2:27 pm

In the 19th century, people did not fear communist revolutions. People did not really fear communism until after the Russian Revolution.

As for public service mentality, lol. The Gang of Four’s idea of public service was “the public serves us.”

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 3:09 pm

I don’t know about public service, but Nathanael is right that there was a certain noblesse oblige that people like Boss Tweed had that doesn’t exist with today’s power brokers. Even robber barons had it a little, evil and cutthroat as they could be. Even later authoritarians like Nelson/David Rockefeller had it.

I bet Lewis never imagined we’d have robber baron busybodies rolled into one:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

? C.S. Lewis

Regardless, it’s a bit hard to imagine noblesse oblige from the likes of Trump.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 3:11 pm

(I do have to confess you see a bit of noblesse oblige from the Koch Brothers. They’re actually backing justice system reforms that help poor/minority victims of police/prosecutorial thuggery. I guess they finance public monuments and cultural initiatives too, albeit ones that mainly benefit wealthier people.)

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:45 pm

That type of noblesse oblige is simply practical. Make sure you’re providing the masses with something so that they don’t *want* to overthrow you and chop your head off.

Emperor Augustus understood it: he put up monuments bragging about how many people received welfare from him.

That attitude — make sure you’re giving the masses something so that they don’t want to overthrow you — is very clearly present in the 19th century robber barons, with the exception of the infamous Jay Gould.

Our current robber barons don’t seem to understand this, although it’s been understood since ancient Egypt and is one of the basics of how to keep your aristocracy from getting whacked.

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 11:15 am

Yep, almost every demagogue up until the late 20th century understood it. It was so ingrained in their behavior that not understanding it and just thinking the poor should starve to death was actually kind of a joke (think Daddy Warbucks, and even he still understood PR).

The only cases I can think of actual real-life demagogues with power not getting it are some European “technocrats” and, well, the GOP.

Nathanael August 15, 2015 - 4:41 pm

Well, I’ve studied enough history to find a *few* other examples of actual real-life guys with power not getting it.

— Louis XVI of France, just before he got overthrown and executed…
— Nicholas II of Russia, just before he got overthrown and executed…
— Jay Gould, famous for “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”

But it really is uncommon.

Nathanael August 15, 2015 - 4:46 pm

Oh, geez, how could I forget the other example: the Southern plantation owners before the Civil War. They really thought they could retain power through sheer force and fear, without doing a damn thing for even the poor *whites* in their states, let alone the black people they’d enslaved.

They were insane/stupid, and they started a war (by firing on Fort Sumter) which they had precisely zero chance of winning.

adirondacker12800 August 15, 2015 - 6:01 pm

And their ancestors have managed to get the poor whites to embrace it as their heritage. Celebrate it even. And vote for it.

Alon Levy August 14, 2015 - 2:33 pm

Huh? Trump is ostentatious and conspicuous. So were the rich of the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties.

Boss Tweed is the exact opposite of that mentality. He was not a robber baron; he was a political machine baron. You should compare him with Ed Koch, Marion Barry, Rose Pak, and the Daley clan. There’s symbiosis between entrenched wealth and political patronage, but they’re not the same thing, and they’re often in direct opposition; the late-19th century rich supported social reform and hated anything that even reminded them of the political machines, in the same way that today’s Republicans hate cities, hate minority politicians (Marion Barry, again), and hate community groups.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 3:10 pm

They hate community groups unless the community group’s membership is Real Americans ™. Then it’s peachy keen.

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 7:28 pm

He mentioned oligarchs, not what kind of oligarchs. But pretty much any oligarch – monarchist, aristocrat, or small-R republican – has incentive to keep the rabble pacified. Any, that is, except a stupid or insane oligarch.

Nathanael August 15, 2015 - 4:42 pm

Exactly my point.

It really upsets me that we currently have so many stupid/insane oligarchs and would-be oligarchs, particularly in the Republican Party. It’s weird.

adirondacker12800 August 15, 2015 - 5:59 pm

Name a few that aren’t Republicans.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:42 pm

You have to remember that Karl Marx was publishing in the 1848, and there were a series of near-revolutions in 1848. Then there was the US Civil War. Then the union movement *really* got going…

Yes, the 19th century industrialists had communist revolutions in the back of their minds.

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 12:36 pm

Bismarck’s conservatives introduced the first modern health insurance systems starting in the 1880s because of the fear of socialist agitation.

And revolutionary socialism predates Marxism probably by at least a quarter century anyway.

Alon Levy August 14, 2015 - 2:28 pm

No, Bismarck introduced health insurance (and pensions) because of the fear of emigration to the US, where wages were higher than in Germany but there was no social safety net.

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 7:17 pm

That doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve heard of reduced out-migration as a result of, but never as a reason for, that legislation. It was probably at best a secondary concern given how Germany organized labor (and does even today to some extent), emphasizing stable oligopolies and monopolies over the Anglo-American obsession with competitiveness. That sort of capitalism could be a good policy or not, but it’s not likely to maximize labor force participation.

If you don’t think socialists were the primary motivation for the policy, the other argument to make probably really is noblesse oblige. That’s probably what a German conservative would say, at least a pre-Merkel one. :-p

Ray August 12, 2015 - 11:51 am

My two cents.

Seems that the first volley – an offer of a loan – is a vote of no confidence in our local talent. The Feds are signaling a need for wholesale re-organizaton. The relationship between the states is shattered. Christie has turned a preference for road projects into a middle finger. Cuomo can’t be bothered and is pursuing his own agenda (I can’t blame him).

The vehicle to build gateway exists in the PANYJ. Yet transit riders and taxypayers in both states are employing governors who don’t want to reform the bi-state agency and are undermining change. Is the PANYJ DOA?

The maze of local agency fiefs have been allowed to pursue incompatible, monstrous and largely unchecked public infrastructure plans with disasterous results. Their effectiveness is impossible to discern. Enough is enough. The Federal taxpayer needs relief and protection. It’s an uphill battle for Senator Schumer – who can’t credibly believe his colleagues in Congress will allow yet another bureaucracy to emerge.

Between the PANYNJ, MTA and NJT (add FTA, DOT and Amtrak) there’s enough publicly funded expertise and retained consultants to reconstruct Europe and Japan after the War in six months. Yet it seems the only thing they can produce after decades of effort is a ballooning mortgage and a warehouse full of planning documents. Together they appear to be over planning, over promising, over spending and under-delivering (while not communicating with each other).

Maybe its not entirely their fault. I don’t know. Yet, it seems that Washington has lost faith. That’s too bad.

Fraser August 12, 2015 - 1:33 pm

Using a single purpose entity for large public works is not unusual AND it avoids the problem of mission creep. Done properly, the dismantling of the entity is tied to the hand-over upon completion to a relevant organization for operations (in this case, Amtrak).

Rich B August 12, 2015 - 6:40 pm

Correct. And you’ve hit on the key: this must be set up so that the new entity is guaranteed to dissolve when the project is complete.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 11:10 pm

Sounds like a plan to assure the contractors can tell the inexperienced people at the new agency anything they want. And get away with it. Rinse repeat for the next agency and project.

Fraser August 13, 2015 - 2:08 am

Modern P3 management practices are effective at mitigating these risks. I’ve inferred that a lot of the $2B the MTA has “found” in savings for the next capital budget are estimates based on adopting better P3 practices.

Chris C August 13, 2015 - 6:06 am

You don’t staff it with neophytes though.

You employ or second the existing experts from existing organisations for the duration. And then you train the next generation of experts.

When the Olympic Delivery Authority was established in London it was staffed with existing experts with proven experience in construction etc.

They were basically left to get on with the job of building the venues. And that is all they had to do.

rustonite August 13, 2015 - 2:58 pm

perhaps what needs to be done is to transform the PA into “Transport for New York”, and give it NJ Transit, MTA, the airports- get everything under one roof. if TfL works, TfNY could.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 11:02 pm

People in the Northeast pay Federal taxes just like Real Americans ™ out in the Homeland ™ do. Lots and lots and lots of them. That pay for the subsidized things Real Americans ™ love so much. They don’t want to start whining about how those nasty people in the Northeast want the Federal government to spend some money there. Federal taxpayers in the Northeast might start to ask rude questions about where all of their tax money is going.

rustonite August 14, 2015 - 1:00 am

Again, no. That was the Supreme Court ruling in the first Obamacare case. Congress cannot use appropriations to manipulate states into altering pre-existing agreements. They could try, the PA would sue, and the PA would win- and the whole thing would drag out over several years while it was litigated. Congress simply doesn’t have the power, either in theory or in practice, to make the PA do anything. It falls on Christie and Cuomo to fix the situation. God help us all.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 2:08 am

His Girthiness terms out in 2017. Can’t run again for Governor until 2021. I’m sure they have but someone from the Working Families Party has to remind Cuomo that almost eight percent of the voters voted WFP or Green. And he made promises at the WFP convention…

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 12:37 pm

Good luck with that. Cuomo openly lied to his own party about campaigning for them.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 1:21 pm

The Teachout delgates said he wouldn’t keep his promises.

There are ulterior motives for picking a candidate from the major party. They get automatic ballot access if they garner enough votes. The convention can nominate instead of going out and getting signatures from voters registered to the party. And there’s the slim chance that the Republican would get in with a plurality if the left leaners vote for WFP or Green.

Nathanael August 15, 2015 - 4:47 pm

I don’t see how Cuomo gets another term, frankly. Anyone who runs against him in the Dem primary will win.

SEAN August 12, 2015 - 12:08 pm

I wonder how Chuck’s cousin Amy would describe this level of insanity. A complete Trainwreck?

Fool August 12, 2015 - 1:42 pm

“We need to form a bi-state agency to building a interstate rail tunnel!”

100 years later.

“We need to form a bi-state agency to building a interstate rail tunnel!”

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:01 am

Yeah, would be nice if the Port Authority had done what it was originally supposed to do. There should be a freight rail tunnel under New York Harbor by now.

John-2 August 12, 2015 - 2:10 pm

The motivation to do something will finally be there when something occurs to force an emergency shutdown of one or both of the existing Hudson River tunnels. That’s how it works with most long-term infrastructure projects — they’re not high priorities when the politicians in office today don’t think they’ll be in office to take bows when the project is completed. They want something that shows results within a 2-3 year time-frame, so they know they’ll have a chance to cut the ribbon and take the credit.

It’s only when the political consequences of inaction are worse than the dangers of doing something that you get movement. That’s how the northwestern Los Angeles suburbs got their Caltrans rail lines in 1994, when the Northridge quake shut down I-5 and State Highway 14 and voters suddenly demanded an alternative way to work. And it was on a far smaller scale, the same thing that happened after Hurricane Sandy, when the old South Ferry station that could never, ever be reopened suddenly had rehabbed moving platforms and the MTA had no problem banging a hole in the wall of the station to access the new fare control location.

Gateway will languish, with New York and New Jersey pointing fingers at each other, until the people running the states fear continuing to point fingers at each other will cost them their jobs. Then the differences will be fixed and the funding will be found (especially if it starts to inconvenience train riders/voters all along the Northeast Corridoe).

AG August 12, 2015 - 6:33 pm

Well really – as arrogant as Cuomo is – he’s actually right. New Jersey Transit is the main user. Sen Schumer also noted this. That is the reason ARC (with it’s flaws) was to be built in the first place. NJ needs NYC more than the other way around. It’s the NJ property values that would plummet – rather than jobs leaving NYC to go to Jersey – if transportation is disrupted for the long term.
Amtrak now wants to build Gateway to improve the NEC. If unfortunately there was a long term disruption – travelers between DC-NYC-BOS would go back to flying. So if you really want to look at who should pony up – Amtrak – via the feds – should come up with the most with NJ putting up a good size portion. NY’s contribution really should be the smallest.

Rich B August 12, 2015 - 6:38 pm

That’s about right.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:03 am

Yep. As an upstate NYer, I kind of relish the thought of NJ collapsing and the population moving to Westchester. It would be very good for the NY state budget.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:24 am

No it wouldn’t. New York would have to start providing them with services.

AlexB August 13, 2015 - 11:42 am

Funded by their income taxes, which would dwarf the services required of anyone who had to move to keep a job in Manhattan.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 12:21 pm

Um um they already pay New York City and New York State income taxes. And use services in New Jersey.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:46 pm

Well, I did say “kind of relish”. It wouldn’t really be a good idea, but it would be poetic justice.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 3:12 pm

We already provide them services. Many are here more than half the day.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 3:37 pm

Water, flushing and the occasional call to 911. Though most of their water, flushing and calls to 911 happen in New Jersey. More than covered by the property taxes their employer pays one way or another on their cubical. The city doesn’t pick up commercial garbage so there’s not even that. Their kids go to school in New Jersey, they usually go to the hospital in New Jersey, they leave their cars in New Jersey most of the time, their kids go to school in New Jersey, when their house burns down it gets put out by a New Jersey fire company. And their kids go to school in New Jersey. NJTransit hauls them to Manhattan, not the MTA. When they drive their kids to school it’s on New Jersey roads. When they drive to the doctor it’s on New Jersey roads. The fire truck, garbage truck, ambulance and UPS/FedEx/USPS truck too.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 4:57 pm

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

AG August 13, 2015 - 5:17 pm

Property taxes pay for schools..

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 5:41 pm

And cops and garbage collection and water supply and sewage disposal and sewerage and paving and… The outta towners don’t use much of all the stuff the city and state provide. They are healthy enough to work and go home to the suburbs to get their schools, sewers, police fire and EMTs, paved roads etc.

AG August 14, 2015 - 12:43 am

“The outta towners don’t use much of all the stuff the city and state provide.”

Rubbish. Every service the city provides to residents and visitors is what shapes it to be the place that make it so the majority of the high earners in NJ work in NYC. Without all the services the city provides daily the environment for those jobs to exist wouldn’t be there. That goes for police – fire – the MTA (whether they directly ride it or not) and even down to the parks system. Jobs just don’t exist in NYC in a vacuum.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 1:48 am

The majority of New Jerseyans work in New Jersey. Expensive commutes are the kind of thing people with high incomes can afford. Just because commuters have high incomes doesn’t mean that the majority of high income earners in New Jersey commute to New York.

Collecting New Yorkers’ garbage so it’s pleasant for out of towners to come into town makes it pleasant for New Yorkers to stay in town. That the toilets flush and someone responds to 911 calls, the pavement isn’t crumbling into gravel, the streetlight come on at night… is something their employers pay property taxes for. The garbage they generate gets hauled away by private carters. So they don’t even get garbage collection for all the taxes they pay to New York City.


AG August 14, 2015 - 5:07 pm

What are you even arguing about? So what if the majority of NJ residents work in NJ (well of course they do)… This is about those who work in NYC. Those are NJ’s highest earning on average. Without them – NJ is nowhere near as propserous. The median income would drop by a whole lot.

Bolwerk August 14, 2015 - 12:42 pm

I’m not sure what services you think the city or state doesn’t provide to out of state employees. I get there are a few obvious ones, like your household water and schools, but most things I can get you can get if you work here or go to school here. That includes cheap or free street parking, New York (or the respective borough’s) Public Library card and, I think, the city gym. If you, as a New Jersey worker, need unemployment, your claim is filed with New York.

New Jersey reciprocates, too. This pissing match is just dumb.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 3:48 pm

Just because they can get them means they use them.

Walter August 14, 2015 - 3:09 pm

We’d have to build some housing for these people, instead of the Detroit-level amount of actual housing now being built in Westchester.

John-2 August 13, 2015 - 1:14 am

Gateway does have more bi-state and multi-state functionality than ARC did, because it has the potential to be through-running. ARC would have freed up space within the existing Hudson River tunnels, but the tunnels themselves would have no use other than for NJT riders, because they dead-ended under Macy’s. It offered to bring workers from New Jersey and their tax dollars to New York, but it didn’t offer New York residents (and New York voters) much of anything unless they were reverse commuting to New Jersey.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 2:45 am

Gateway is ARC-South. Those trains are going to be going to terminal tracks too. And because it’s all on one level, have less capacity.
Trains that aren’t in the existing Penn Station free it up for other trains. That can run through when the LIRR is on strike.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:04 am

Gateway has direct track connections which allow trains to run through. This is very useful for when one or more tunnels needs to be *closed for repairs*.

ARC didn’t have that.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:27 am

If there’s only three tunnels open you get what you got now and 6 trains an hour shuttling in and out of the stubby terminal on the south side instead of the stubby terminal on the north side.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:47 pm

Wrong. I don’t need to go into detail about this, you’re just wrong. Look up the track charts.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:55 pm

After they send 7 trains to the stubby terminal they run out of platforms. They have to go back out to New Jersey. That leaves one track into the existing station. In theory they could send them to Queens. In practice the Long Island Railroad is busy using the East River Tunnesls when NJTransit traffic is at it’s peak. Ya get what ya got today and whatever you can squeeze into a bidirectional track.

AG August 13, 2015 - 4:59 pm

I don’t disagree… But the fact still remains NY State should bear the smallest burden if you go by usage. It’s still NJ who needs to get residents to NYC jobs that will be the largest bulk.

Larry Littlefield August 12, 2015 - 3:29 pm

Open your mind to the big picture. Not long from now all of New Jersey’s transportation revenues — gas taxes, tolls, fares — with be going to debt service.


No money to maintain or operate ANYTHING.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:04 am

Jersey can raise its income taxes and its property taxes and its sales taxes and its gasoline taxes to the level of Connecticut or New York…

…in fact, it’ll have to.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:31 am

What New Jersey has to do is stop sending income tax money to Washington DC., Albany and Harrisburg never to be seen again.

Stewart Clamen August 13, 2015 - 11:43 am

NJ and Pennsylvania have a reciprocity agreement. If you live in NJ you can pay the income tax on what you earn in PA to your home state of New Jersey.

Larry Greenfield August 12, 2015 - 4:27 pm

First, although I’m glad to see someone at the level of the federal government take the lead on this project, I’m hopeful it will ultimately not include the Port Authority, an organization that seems to bring out the worst in both governors. Cooperation among the feds, the MTA, the two states and Amtrak will be difficult enough without the politically toxic Port Authority in the mix.

Second, it’s too bad that it requires a brand-new organization every time a new infrastructure project becomes necessary (the same type of organization was set up for the Penn Station project). I guess it’s a measure of how little cooperation there is among our politicians.

JJJJ August 12, 2015 - 4:38 pm

The solution to a broken Port Authority is to leave them as they are and create a new, second authority that has overlapping duties and turf?

Uh….I hate to quote the tea party here, but the solution to the problem of big government bureaucracy is not more big government.

Take this:

“Amtrak can’t access federal mass transit funding. The Port Authority and regional Transit Agencies can’t access federal railroad dollars the way Amtrak can”

This is being said like the grant terms were handed down by God to Moses and cant be changed! If Amtrak cant access the federal funding THEN CHANGE THE RULES. If agencies cant access FRA dollars then CHANGE THE RULES.

For fucks sake.

Rich B August 12, 2015 - 6:37 pm

In theory, I agree. In practice, the PA is corrupt and the rules take time to change. There is real urgency here. While “replace the PA with a better agency and reform the rules” may be the ideal way forward, it would take far too long. A new corp is almost certainly the fastest way forward.

Fool August 12, 2015 - 9:22 pm

Is that not how you fix a corrupt agency? Create a new agency and close down the old? Laying off everyone?

Although the PA’s are unique to a period of lesser federal involvement. Today the original function of the PA’s would be part of a federal agency’s purview.

JJJ August 12, 2015 - 10:34 pm

Theres nothing in Chucks plan about nuking the PA.

If it has the word PORT in it, they can keep it.

Bus station? PATH? Bridge? Tunnel? No.

Fool August 13, 2015 - 2:21 pm

So a Metropolitan something to do with transportation agency?

JJJ August 14, 2015 - 12:09 pm

If your agency has transit in it, you should run the transit system (PATH).

If your agency has bus and tunnel in it, you should maybe run the buses and tunnels.

One COULD argue that the bus station is a bus port and can remain under PA control. Thats a tough one because no existing agency is an expert at running bus terminals.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Everybody decides to drive instead of taking the bus or the train the trucks hauling stuff away from the port can’t get to the port. Or haul it away. After a few days the supermarkets on Long Island have bare shelves. Everybody decides to take the ferry instead of driving the port clogs up with ferry boats and the ships can’t get to and from the docks.

JJJJ August 14, 2015 - 2:25 pm

I mean bridge and tunnel, not bus and tunnel

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:09 am

Fixing Congress is not practical right now. The grant terms are, unfortunately, set by Congress.

We may be able to fix Congress in 2017 or later — sometime after Bernie Sanders is elected President, which would indicate that people are really in the mood to fix things. But we aren’t going to be able to fix Congress quickly.

Rich B August 12, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Was it intentional to use “two-state solution” to describe the Jewish Senator’s proposal? That really seems to straddle the line between cute and inappropriate, and I’m not even Jewish.

Spuds August 12, 2015 - 7:14 pm

Federal fuel taxes are the proverbial third rail. You may see a rise in state taxes or even conversion of “free” roads to toll roads via All Electronic Toll Collection.Map21 and its precursors stated that as longxas as the road is new, reconstructed or had HOV lanes converted into HOT.

johndmuller August 12, 2015 - 9:21 pm

The amount of lather that people and politicians work up about changing the fuel tax is really pathetic.

First of all, people by and large don’t even know exactly what the gas tax is; what we know in the NYC area is mostly that NJ’s tax is less than NY or Conn’s and that it costs even more in NYC than elsewhere.

For the most part, the taxes (cents per gallon) haven’t been changed substantially for decades; I don’t know the actual numbers, but I don’t think that the taxes have changed much over a 50 year period (or more).

In recent years, and within almost any 5 or 10 year period over the last 50 – 60 years, the selling price of gasoline has varied easily by $2 or $3/gal and for the most part, there has only been any significant effect on behavior when there was a sudden big spike or a prolonged time at the highest price levels.

At almost any time during this half century, government(s) could have easily upped the gas tax by 5, 10, or 25 cents/gal with hardly any notice during either the up or down price swings and without any real objection other than the usual gripes. Instead, self serving politicians have sometimes actually decreased the gas tax to score cheap political points.

The fuel taxes as a percent of price are nowhere near their historical levels, so it is no mystery why the trust funds are mostly empty or struggling.

Stephen August 12, 2015 - 11:03 pm

Ok, a quick review:
The United States federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. And it’s been at that level since 1993.
What makes gas prices vary are the state (& local) taxes. Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States for more info.

johndmuller August 13, 2015 - 12:45 am

It’s the price of oil that accounts for the variability in any particular state. My point is that while the retail price is bouncing up and down due to oil politics in OPEC or whatnot, the tax could be bumped up under that cover without a lot of political anxiety, letting OPEC or Exxon take the blame.

Given the way the Saudi’s monitor the market, hoping to keep the economic threshhold of alternative energy just above their prices, a tax increase at the federal level, could preempt some of their increases, costing American consumers nothing (you would rather give your money to Uncle Sam I hope).

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:11 am

Even the regional variations based on “different blends” and transportation costs from refineries amount to more than 18.4 cents per gallon.

The federal gas tax should have been raised a long time ago. But we have lunatics in Congress, particularly on the Republican side, who have sworn bizarre oaths never to raise taxes.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:33 am

Oaths to never raise taxes unless they are on poor people. Then they are all for it. They usually call them fees or something like that.

DF August 13, 2015 - 12:03 pm

I think it is generally agreed that the gas tax is regressive.

johndmuller August 13, 2015 - 8:45 pm

DF says:
I think it is generally agreed that the gas tax is regressive.

Well, maybe not exactly.

Really poor people don’t have cars and don’t (at least directly) pay gas tax.

Somewhat poor people can’t really afford to have 2 to 4 cars per household, drive a lot, or have big gas guzzlers or RV’s.

I think that the gas tax is, strangely enough, somewhat more of a burden on the middle class than anyone else. Even if you are rich enough to have more cars than a middle class family, it isn’t too likely you can do more driving. Rich people don’t need to kill themselves with long commutes and there are only so many suburban things one can do in a day, no matter how much money you have.

Stephen August 13, 2015 - 12:08 pm

The Fed’s rate is a flat 18.4 cents. The states are the ones that have different tax rates. As for different costs for transportation, that’s not a tax issue. But you’re right, that the fed tax of 18.4 cents should have been raised years ago.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 10:48 pm

Yeah, my point was that 18.4 cents is peanuts — it’s immaterial to gas prices at this point.

Spuds August 12, 2015 - 7:18 pm

If the PA is ever to get an infusion of money then a cross harbor froeght/passenger tunnel should be the priority. Freight means money, passengers not so much

Panthers August 13, 2015 - 3:50 pm

Wait, didn’t we just see all this in True Detective season 2? Yeah, minus the blue diamonds…..

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 4:44 pm

PA’s inability to handle basic problems

They run the world’s busiest automobile bridge and the world’s busiest bus terminal integrated into their busiest tunnel. They run the country’s 5th, 11th and 20th most busy airport. Third largest port in tonnage, second busiest for containers. Itty bitty little inconsequential PATH is the country’s 7th busiest mass transit system. In their spare time they are building one of the world’s biggest office buildings.

Fool August 14, 2015 - 11:43 am


-The busiest automotive bridge.
-The busiest bus terminal.
-The 5th, 11th and 20th busiest airports.
-The PATH.
-The World Trade Center Complex.

Are examples of well run and efficient entities?

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 12:53 pm

He didn’t say they were well run or efficient. That they are grossly congested means someone finds that they solve a problem.

AG August 14, 2015 - 5:09 pm

I think the word was “basic”…. Those are very very complex things on that list. I didn’t see anyone say efficient.

BBA August 13, 2015 - 10:25 pm

It may take a few months of running the Acela to Weehawken and making people take a ferry across the Hudson for actual progress on building a new tunnel.

On second thought, that’s unrealistic, Congress will never agree to fund a temporary station in Weehawken.

JJJ August 14, 2015 - 12:12 pm

Good thing theres a perfectly great train terminal sitting around unused, with direct access to ferry docks!


Note: Perfectly great does not include tracks but those should be an issue. Also, the ferry piers may need some paint

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 1:16 pm

There’s a perfectly good ferry terminal in Hoboken next to tracks that have wires hanging over them. With a connection to Newark and beyond. And a PATH station! Would have to install some high platforms. Though why they would go to Hoboken to change to PATH when they can do that in Newark is a good question. Right across the platform. No clambering up and down ramps etc.

JJJJ August 14, 2015 - 2:28 pm

Assuming the tunnels to Manhattan go away, I dont know if Hoboken has the capacity to terminate all Amtrak and NJ Transit traffic. PATH certainly doesnt have the capacity for all those bodies, which is why youd need more ferries and a new terminal. Not the ferries this website hates, but functional ones like Staten Island.

Communipaw Terminal is well positioned and ties nicely into the NEC.

adirondacker12800 August 14, 2015 - 3:09 pm

What’s the lead time on getting a big ferry delivered? You need 10 or 15 of them.

The CNJ and the PRR never connected. There were convoluted interchanges for freight but no passenger service. Unless you consider the sharing they did south of Perth Amboy, the NEC. The bridge over the bay to downtown Newark is no longer there and the bridge to downtown Elizabeth is no longer there. Which leaves the busy freight line that isn’t connected to the NEC in a way that would let you run trains to the old CNJ terminal. Assuming you could lay track through the park that is between the terminal and active tracks. Shouldn’t take more than 8 or 9 or 10 years to do the legal work and environmental. By that time the new tunnel would be open.

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