Home Gateway Tunnel The politics and the tunnel both run from New Jersey to New York

The politics and the tunnel both run from New Jersey to New York

by Benjamin Kabak

New Jersey officials discuss the future of a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. (Via Sen. Cory Booker)

It’s hard to say where all of these meetings, editorials and statements about the need for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel eventually lead to. For a few weeks — spurred on by an unfortunate assist from Hurricane Sandy and necessarily relentless coverage of delays caused by problems in Amtrak’s North River Tunnels — journalists, editorial boards, federal officials, transit advocates, and, yes, even elected representatives have been pushing forward on finding a way to build new tunnels. At $14-$20 billion depending upon the scope of the project, the ask is so far large and largely unjustified, but as the political dance continues, we have reason to remain cautiously optimistic that forces are aligning to do something. What that something is remains to be seen.

As we try to make sense of the latest developments, let’s turn to New Jersey where the Garden State politicians met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. The meeting involved Gov. Chris Christie and Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. Picking up on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cues last week, the team discussed the need not for loans but for federal grants. With Christie on board, an annoying if necessary piece of the puzzle considering he’s one of the reasons why we’re in this mess, the group released a statement:

“Transit across the Hudson River carries an enormous and increasing share of this region’s workforce and economy, and it is clear that something must be done, and done now, as commuters continue to endure serious daily challenges that come with an aging infrastructure.

“We had a substantive and productive meeting today and all of us are committed to working together on a path forward on this critical project. Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, and Governor Christie will work with Secretary Foxx to obtain a substantial Federal grant contribution toward the Hudson River tunnels. In addition to grants, we will also work on other funding and financing options.

“The state of New Jersey supports the Gateway project and is committed to developing a framework with the Federal government to begin it. We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties. As commuters can attest, we cannot afford further delay.”

It’s not clear what exactly is next for the Garden State pols, but Emma Fitzsimmons’ coverage in The Times notes that, as with any meeting, there were some takeaways. “There was a growing sense of optimism on Tuesday among officials that the project would advance, according to an official who attended the gathering,” she writes. “Another official said that attendees left the meeting with specific assignments or tasks to move the plans forward.”

But as with the tunnel, the politics runs across the Hudson. It may be true, as Cuomo has pushed, that New Jersey stands to lose more if Amtrak’s tubes fail than New York, but that’s a provincial, short-term look. New Yorkers use and need access to the rest of the country via the Hudson River rail tunnels, and New York is going to have to be a willing participant in this Herculean funding mission. Cuomo may be coming around, and he just may be playing the right angle now after a few weeks of recalcitrance.

In a piece I highly recommend you read, Dana Rubinstein explores how the tunnel is New York’s problem whether Cuomo recognizes it or not. The Port Authority, a body some in Washington are intent on pushing aside for the purposes of a new trans-Hudson tunnel, is his problem, and Cuomo will have to cooperate. His statements are all over the place.

Noting that he was “encouraged” by the New Jersey meeting — although not invited to the Garden State summit — Cuomo again called for direct federal contributions. “I think we all recognize the need to make up for years of discussions that did not produce tangible forward progress. I believe deeply in the need for this country and my state and region to invest in new infrastructure to maintain our economic prowess, and I stand ready to expedite any and all state processes to move this project forward. We in New York have invested in major road reconstruction, undertaken the largest single bridge project in the country in decades with the Tappan Zee Bridge and announced the only total reconstruction of a major airport in the country today,” he said. “In the same vein, I strongly support the construction of the new Hudson River tunnel – and a federal grant package that makes the project viable is an essential first step.”

This morning on New York 1 he kinda sorta rolled that back. He claimed his statements are working in that he is “provoking” the bureaucracy to do something, and in that sense, perhaps he’s playing a long game. Additionally, he has questioned the $20 billion price tag — a key line of argument that must be challenged as the project moves forward. What are we spending this money on and why does it cost so much more here than elsewhere? But his constant comparisons to the new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport projects remain problematic as he hasn’t been transparent on costs or funding. Still, Cuomo pledged that New York would “do its fair share” and again called on the federal government to “step up” with funding.

So that’s a lot of talk. What next? The money. When? Your guess is as good as mine, but the sooner the better.

You may also like


lawhawk August 19, 2015 - 10:57 am

The TZB construction is underway and while the price tag is roughly $3.8 billion, where the funds to repay the loans are going to come from and how much tolls will rise isn’t clear. Cuomo’s made sure to make the funding as clear as Hudson River muck. He tried using EPA clean water funds, but was rebuffed by the courts, adding to the tally of funding that will come from loans to be repaid from tolling.

The question is how high tolls will rise at the TZB, or whether the entire Thruway will see tolls rise to cover the cost.

With the Hudson River tunnels, he’s got little room to complain about the price tag and costs, when he simply throws figures out for the LGA rebuild and the LGA Airtrain without identifying where/how those will be paid for and some estimates are already indicating twice the price he claimed.

All that said, Cuomo has a point about how much the Gateway project will cost.

No one is breaking out the costs to identify critical needs from the wish list, and how much can be saved along the line.

The Portal Bridge is lumped in with all this too. $1 billion there for a 2-track replacement, and another $1+ billion for a second span (2 or 3 track, depending on whether a flyover is involved). So let’s say that is $3 billion of the work. How much for the tunnel construction itself – 2 tubes, from the portal on the NJ side to the tunnel box on the NY side?

How many more billions then are for the Farley post office conversion to the Moynihan station? How much for work into Sunnyside Yards? Power systems? Signals? Etc.

We need to bring costs down to at least what the Europeans are spending on their subway/rail expansion, which would give us more bang for the buck and/or lower costs for the same amount of work.

webster August 19, 2015 - 11:02 am

Has there even been a study, or are these the “estimates?”
TBH, I don’t get the hyperventilating about cost estimates: they’ll move up; they’ll move down.

Chris August 19, 2015 - 11:21 am

They’ll never move down. The pricing for capital projects like this in this Country is criminal and its why we can’t have nice, modern, efficient, useful things.

LLQBTT August 20, 2015 - 9:20 am

Especially here in the NYC area.

lop August 19, 2015 - 3:44 pm

There were no clean water funds. It was going to be a low interest loan.


For years the TZB brought in more revenue than it cost to maintain the bridge. That money wasn’t stashed away to pay for the new bridge, it was used to fund the rest of the highway. Increasing tolls on the rest of the system to pay them back would not be inequitable.

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 5:02 pm

Hell, ever drive the rest of that thing? Tolls on the rest of it are hardly low either.

lop August 19, 2015 - 6:08 pm

Yes I have. I think thruway revenue from passenger cars/suvs works out to 5 cents a mile with the TZB. The tolls aren’t high.

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 6:44 pm

Didn’t mean to imply they were unreasonable, but they are unusually high for the USA.

lop August 19, 2015 - 7:21 pm

Cheaper than most US toll roads.

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 11:35 am

The problem with Cuomo’s comparison is he can’t get his pincher of his muscle car dick long enough to wrap his head around the fact that to LaGuardia and the TZB rebuilds is they’re not very useful for transportation.

The Second Avenue Subway is useful. Tribourough RX is useful. An almost-untalked about Utica Avenue Subway is useful. Rockaway Beach reactivation is useful. Even the 7 extension and ESA are kind of useful. And a new tunnel trans-Hudson rail tunnel will be very useful to New Jersey.

These projects all have one thing in common: they can move a lot of people.

Phantom August 19, 2015 - 12:44 pm

A world city needs great airports. A great LGA is essential.

I see no reason why we can’t have a full Second Avenue Subway, new Hudson tunnels, and other things as well with all the money there is in this region and country.

One of the major drivers of cost for NY construction projects is bad ” labor law ” that is unique to this state. I never hear major politicians speak about this, though anyone in the industry will tell you that this is a huge reason why construction costs are higher in NY than a few miles away in NJ or PA.

orulz August 19, 2015 - 1:12 pm

As others have mentioned, with sane capital costs, a budget of $20 billion should buy ALL of these: Hudson tunnels, rebuilt/improved Penn Station, Completed Second Avenue Subway, with extensions on 125th, the Bronx, and Brooklyn; the Utica Subway, Rockaway Branch reactivation, and perhaps more.

If they can’t get the combined cost for the Hudson Tunnels, portal bridges, and Penn Station below $10 billion (which would still be way out of line by international standards) then seriously, scrap the project for now. Construction costs will never go down in this country unless somebody finally calls BS.

And if one of the existing tunnels has to be shut down, then we will suffer for a few years but the urgency will cause the red tape, gold plating, and rent seeking to fall away. We’ll find out that we still know how to do great things and the whole project will come in ahead of schedule and on budget just like the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis or even (IIRC) the temporary PATH station at the WTC site.


johndmuller August 19, 2015 - 8:31 pm

If you want to call BS or whatever, please do it on some other project. Some projects are worth it even it they are done in a ripoff way. Here we are throwing billions around on the PATH terminal monument, Fulton St., various air trains and airports, the Pulaski Skyway and the TZB all without a lot of forethought and oversight and dubious benefits. At the same time, big money is being spent on ESA, the 7 line and the 2nd Ave. subway, with a lot of the same drawbacks, but at least some tangible benefits; file Gateway with these latter projects – grin and bear it. Why don’t you wait to throw your hissy fit until the first span of the TZB is done and throw it about the second span. The first new span can probably carry the current load by itself while you wear yourself out trying to find anyone to do the second cheaper and/or getting Cuomo to give you a straight answer as to where the money is coming from (the answer is obviously that You don’t want to know!).

I don’t know anymore what is a reasonable cost for anything. I know that the prices of nuts, eggs and shrimp have all doubled or tripled recently, all originally with some excuse or other, and as for the shrimp at least, while the Gulf has presumably recovered from the oiol spill, the price of shrimp is still up there. In the world of the invisible hand, the price is what it is because of a whole bunch of factors and the ability of people to find a way to pay for them is a big one, so we will see how much we want those tunnels.

No matter how much all these things cost, the spending of that money in this general area works its own economic magic – not all the money can retire to Florida right away – and the rest of the local economy will get its share. Somebody in Nyack or Tarrytown is selling beer and sandwiches to the workers on the TZB, and/or giving them speeding or parking tickets; somebody’s gas stations and motels are doing alright; and if money went under the table, it might come out from under in a new or at least remodeled house somewhere in Westchester or Rockland.

BSPABNY August 20, 2015 - 7:44 am

The budget for the Tappan Zee Bridge would fund replacement or remodeling for a whole lot of houses in the Hudson Valley. Given that we haven’t seen the wholesale revitalization of the region’s housing stock, I’d say it’s fair to assume most of this money is leaving the region, benefiting shareholders of the construction firms responsible for the high costs.

Ryan August 19, 2015 - 2:53 pm

Except LGA is functionally worthless, actually, because its mere presence in the region harms capacity at both JFK and EWR more than any amount of renovation or expansion can make up for.

Closing LGA immediately improves New York City’s remaining two airports with little to no harm done to Long Island (still has JFK), the City (still has both airports), or New Jersey (still has EWR). The biggest and only losers in closing LGA are in fact the landed gentry of the Upper East Side, Westchester County or southwestern CT, areas which have a slightly harder time getting to JFK. Too bad for them.

Fraser August 19, 2015 - 3:01 pm

You are misinformed.

a) Overlapping airspace is being solved by the FAA’s NexGen air traffic control modernization program.

b) EWR & JFK can not absorb the air traffic were LGA to close. EWR, JFK & LGA all have roughly the same number of paired landing/take-off slots. EWR can’t be significantly expanded – the runways are too close to be operated independently as is & there is little room for expansion towards I-95. JFK can be significantly expand, but that would require at least one more runway and new terminals.

see: http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA.....-Class.pdf

Ryan August 19, 2015 - 10:15 pm

Okay, except that New York City’s three airports only have to operate under a slot system at all because of their extreme proximity to one another. The only other airport in the country that is slot-restricted is DCA and its slot restrictions have nothing to do with its proximity to unrestricted IAD/BWI but rather everything to do with DC politics (as usual.)

EWR and JFK with NextGen have a greater capacity ceiling than EWR, JFK and LGA with NextGen. This is indisputable, even though the three airports with NextGen obviously have a larger capacity than they do without NextGen.

Furthermore, EWR can in fact be significantly expanded – the other side of 1/9 is an industrial wasteland, rebuilding EWR’s terminals on top of the NEC is a good idea for a number of reasons, and putting all of EWR’s landside operations on the other side of or directly on top of 1/9 gives you plenty of extra room with which to deal with that problem of the runways being too close together.

As you’ve said yourself, JFK expansion merely requires a new runway and an additional terminal, which are both trivial asks. The only reason they haven’t been done already is – again – because that additional capacity can’t be used with LGA limiting capacity for all of New York City’s airports.

Fraser August 20, 2015 - 12:14 pm

Your argument in favor of closing down LGA amounts to “because we could spend billions on EWR & JFK and then have 2 airports with the same capacity of three”. Its clear that in order to meet future capacity JFK is going to have to be expanded regardless.

Ryan August 20, 2015 - 12:32 pm

My argument in favor of closing down LGA is that the return on investment for $4B into EWR and JFK plus the cost of demolition at LGA is much larger than the return on investment for $4B into LGA. This holds especially true if you believe that sinking billions into EWR and JFK is inevitable.

It should be clear to everyone that LGA is causing more problems than it’s solving, and no amount of electronics, money or wishing is going to be able to overcome that. You will inevitably hit the upper limit of what’s possible to do with New York City’s airports under the physical constraints, and it will inevitably turn out to be significantly less than what’s doable if LGA gets demolished. There’s a reason why nobody else in the entire world has built two airports 10 miles apart from each other.

Nyland8 August 22, 2015 - 4:37 pm

LGA is anything but “functionally worthless”, and it serves a far greater region than you imagine. I know people in northern New Jersey who prefer it over EWR, and it is much closer to Rockland County as well. The notion that its traffic can be absorbed by an “improved” JFK and EWR is laughably absurd.

I live in west Harlem, in the current takeoff pattern for runway 31, and just watched more than 2 dozen planes depart with less than 1 minute headways – AND ITS SATURDAY MORNING!

While it may be true that in the past 2 decades I’ve only used LGA one time – having flown mostly out of EWR – I have picked up and dropped off many people there, and it can only be described as a “vital” link in our transportation landscape.

If Laguardia didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.

adirondacker12800 August 22, 2015 - 6:48 pm

If LaGuardia didn’t exist more planes would fly out of JFK and EWR. And White Plains and Islip and Stewart and Bradley. If we had a decent HSR system there wouldn’t be as many people changing planes and there wouldn’t be as many regional flights.

Alex B. August 21, 2015 - 10:09 am

DCA’s perimeter restriction might be political, but the slot restrictions are not. It’s a relatively small airport with essentially one runway and a huge amount of demand.

The slots set the upper limit of what the airport can handle in terms of aircraft movements; the length of the runways, the width of the taxiways and the constraints of the airspace around it limit how much traffic it can absorb. These are very real physical constraints.

johndmuller August 21, 2015 - 7:28 pm

Ryan says:
EWR and JFK with NextGen have a greater capacity ceiling than EWR, JFK and LGA with NextGen. This is indisputable, . . .
. . . and . . .
You will inevitably hit the upper limit of what’s possible to do with New York City’s airports under the physical constraints, and it will inevitably turn out to be significantly less than what’s doable if LGA gets demolished.

I’ll give you “indisputable” and “inevitable”, as in this indisputably ridiculous claim that if EWR & JFK under NestGen were maxed out with whatever hundreds of planes per hour they could handle, that there wasn’t any room for 1 or 2 (and more likely dozens) of additional planes squeezed in around the edges to LGA. The sky is pretty effen big and if there were so many planes circling waiting to land under NextGen as to fill up the sky, the vast majority of them would be running out of fuel before they could get to a runway. So consider it disputed.

BSPABNY August 20, 2015 - 7:13 am

You should look into who funds the RPA before using their documents to support ridiculous assertions and calling others “misinformed.”

Start by looking at FAA’s professionally-prepared studies on this issue:

It’s clear that the airspace without LGA would be more productive and efficient than the airspace with LGA.

Phantom August 19, 2015 - 3:42 pm

The concept of closing LGA is ludicrous. NYC travelers will never permit it.

Time spend discussing this nonsensical idea is time that could be spend discussing an idea that is defensible.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 4:37 pm

How about building a 20th Century HSR system so half of them don’t have to go to an airport at all? They just get on a train and get there faster. 21st Century one would be even nicer.

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 4:51 pm

I’m pretty ambivalent about keeping LGA. I would guess the jetset crowd is too, since flights don’t go to “cool” places like Europe or the west coast. Some LGA traffic is just commuter flights to places that flights aren’t even worth it to, except for the sorry state of American passenger rail. Basically, if there is an airport that could be politically sacrificed, I’d say LGA is it.

I was going to say I could see emphasizing it more by providing good transit to it, but good transit isn’t on the table. Besides it’s not like JFK has good transit access, and Newark is arguably even worse than LGA.

Well, LGA can be debated, but either way Cuomo’s efforts are 10-figure chrome job on a turd.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 5:30 pm

Building stations for the few thousand people who use each terminal a day would cost too much. What’s the radical difference between changing to Airtrain at an existing station and changing to Airtrain at a new station inside the airport?

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 10:49 am

If a “few thousand people” use a periphery transit station, that station is a smashing success.

The radical difference is convenience. It’s important.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 12:17 pm

No it’s not. How many people are going to go to Cleveland instead of New York because Cleveland has better rail transport from the airport? How many people in metro New York are going to fly out of Philadelphia because the train goes right to the terminals? There is life outside of Midtown. Airtrain is still going to have to run, there’s still going to be people who can get there from the A train and from Jamaica whether it’s the J/Z, E or the LIRR. There are still going to be people who want to rent cars, park or stay in hotels at the airport. In an ideal world when they started plowing up Idlewild Golf Course they would have allocated space for trains, they didn’t. Airtrain is good enough.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 12:45 pm

Dumbass comment, as usual when you touch on this subject. Nobody is opting for 100+ miles away airports over local airports. What they opt for are cabs over indirect/substandard transit.

I don’t see what the fuck your interest in bringing this up is anyway. Trolling? Build airport transit or don’t build it, but if you build it at least build it right. Nothing I’ve ever said to you on the subject would raise much an objection with anyone familiar with best practices around the world. I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with AirTrain JFK, and would even call its design more necessary than sufficient for good accessibility.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 2:13 pm

It’s not substandard transit. It’s whiz bang trolley cars which are an appropriate technology when you want to move a few tens of thousands of people over a day. Spending tens of billions of dollars, you’d have to tear down every terminal and all the roadways or dig a lot of tunnel and build a lot of deep caverns, so a few thousand more decide to take the train, isn’t worth it.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 5:40 pm

LGA certainly has substandard transit access (bus only), and JFK is at least indirect. Newark has absurdly indirect rail transit.

I don’t know why you think “a few thousand people” a day is so trivial. Median ridership is around 7500 swipe-ons per station per weekday.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 10:37 pm

Sending the LIRR to JFK doesn’t make it any easier to get to LGA. It doesn’t make it any easier to get to EWR either. You can’t get to Newark Airport any more directly than the way the trains run now. Carving a new ROW across the Ironbound to save a few hundred feet wouldn’t be worth it.

The people using Airtrain now are mostly gonna keep using Airtrain. Sending the LIRR to JFK doesn’t get you to the subway stops in Brooklyn and Queens along the A, E, J or Z. It doesn’t get you from a bus that goes to Jamaica to Jamaica. It doesn’t get you from an LIRR station east of Jamaica to Jamaica either. We’d be spending billions and billions of dollars for a marginal increase in ridership.

LLQBTT August 21, 2015 - 9:21 am

People do indeed fly out of Philly as an alternative to NYC. I only know this anecdotally, so I cannot quote facts and figures. The main reason is price.

Alon Levy August 20, 2015 - 3:11 pm

New Jersey construction costs:

$1 billion for a short two-track bridge.

Around $9 billion for generally four-tracking the 11-km segment from the tunnel portal to Newark, going by the residual between Schumer’s $25 billion and Amtrak’s $16 billion.

$1.4-1.7 billion for 4 km of elevated PATH extension.

$450 million for 45 km of constant-tension catenary.

Nearly $3 billion in today’s money for 27 km of HBLR, which is largely on existing rail ROWs.

Look, I wish it were specific to New York’s sandhogs or what not. Busting a union is comparatively easy. Figuring out what makes projects in Jersey this expensive is a lot harder.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 8:37 pm

A billion for a two track bridge. They know how to build two track bridges cheaper, they’ve been popping a new one out every few years for a long time. Those other bridges aren’t in the middle of a swamp contaminated with a delightful cocktail of industrial wastes. Realigning the embankment through that swamp so the tracks line up with the new bridge isn’t gonna be cheap.

450 million for four tracks of new catenary, upgrading the converter station so the new catenary doesn’t trip the circuit breakers with more and faster trains, upgrading the tracks so trains can run faster on them and working on interlocking A just west of Penn Station so it has new 30mph switches instead of ancient 15mph switches. I’m sure there is more. It’s unclear how much of that 450 million is to accommodate North Brunswick, it’s flyover and converting Jersey Avenue to a more conventional configuration. It’s not just catenary. And there’s four tracks of it.

Alon Levy August 20, 2015 - 10:09 pm

Wait, so is Portal Bridge expensive because it’s an environmentally sensitive wetland, or because it’s a contaminated site?

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 11:06 pm

it’s a wetland along a river that had heavy industry along it since the mid 19th century. When no one cared if your toxic waste flushed up and down the river with every tide. Moving an embankment is pricey and moving it in a context that has toxic wastes contaminating it, gets pricier.

Coal tar byproducts from coke ovens are nasty stuff. So is hexavalent chromium. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some dioxin from the Agent Orange plant in Newark. And all the other interesting things that used to go on along the Hackensack and Passaic.

Peter August 21, 2015 - 1:19 pm

I would disagree somewhat — they should be planning this as a causeway/approach bridge instead, then remove the existing embankment and build a new causeway on the existing ROW.

Alon Levy August 21, 2015 - 10:55 pm

First, about the wetlands business, the west approach is flanked by roads on both sides of the tracks, and the east approach has a cleared 40-meter ROW.

Second, as always, the question is “you mean to tell me there are toxic contaminants right now and nobody does anything about it?”.

adirondacker12800 August 22, 2015 - 12:29 am

If the contamination isn’t moving they leave it alone. Until the lawsuits over whether or not it should be disturbed are settled. And the lawsuits over who should pay for it. And the lawsuits over whether those people have the money. And the lawsuits over transporting it. And disposing of it.

If you want to dump trainloads of gravel into the swamp a whole bunch of very expensive testing and reports have to be done.

lop August 19, 2015 - 3:48 pm

TZB moves about 200k people a day. More than projections for 7 ext, RBB, Utica, Triboro, or the three individual phases of SAS after the first.

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 4:38 pm

It moves about 135,000 vehicles a day, about 5,000 of them trucks.

Anyway, that’s rather besides the point. Those other projects actually make new kinds of trips possible, and are therefore significantly more useful than replacing something that already basically works.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 5:23 pm

The problem is wood sitting in a river isn’t a particularly durable bridge material. Correcting that would cost more than building a new bridge.

BSPABNY August 20, 2015 - 7:34 am

Not true. The New New York Bridge is more expensive than ongoing maintenance plus rehabilitation of the wooden piers. But it supposedly has other “benefits” that justify its exorbitant cost. (Namely, votes from Rockland and Orange counties for Cuomo and allies.)

lawhawk August 20, 2015 - 2:14 pm

The new spans are supposed to include a dedicated bus lane, and be capable of handling rail (light or commuter rail) when the money becomes available for that down the line. It also provides a bike/pedestrian access that the current span lacks.

The current span isn’t able to accommodate rail, and the TA hasn’t created a dedicated bus lane either (it could/should).

Given that the current span is functionally obsolete and wasn’t designed to handle the current traffic levels, a new span was needed –

Alon Levy August 20, 2015 - 3:41 pm

Bike/ped access between what, exactly? Nyack and Tarrytown?

Ryan August 20, 2015 - 4:17 pm

I would imagine it’s bike/ped access to the future parking lots on either side. Maybe there will be tourism events utilizing the “access.” Personally, I think there’s an exciting potential revenue stream to be capitalized on if the bridge is built with a bungee jumping facility!

It certainly isn’t a legitimate connection to anything or anywhere, much like the Tappan Zee, which is only entrenched in its current position as a giant middle finger to the Port Authority. The useful location for a road bridge would have been a Cross-County Parkway extension over the river (actually about the same distance end to end as Tappan Zee), or a 253 St Bridge in Yonkers.

lop August 20, 2015 - 8:19 pm

The useful location for a road bridge would have been a Cross-County Parkway extension over the river (actually about the same distance end to end as Tappan Zee), or a 253 St Bridge in Yonkers.

Do you mean 50 years ago? Or today, instead of the Tappan Zee replacement?

Ryan August 20, 2015 - 9:27 pm

Mostly 50 years ago, since actually rerouting that trucking corridor is essentially impossible now even if you figure Cuomo’s gung-ho attitude towards roadworks, and extending the Cross-County Parkway now would require blowing up half of Yonkers.

There’s not nearly as much to go through to build a 253 St bridge, connecting 9A and 9W which would take a sizable amount of non-commercial traffic off of the GWB. That has a nontrivial amount of value, although not necessarily enough to justify the additional road bridge. 253 St could be built today, though, unlike the Cross-County Extension – and I would’ve liked to see a token amount of consideration given to building a new bridge elsewhere once it was decided that a new bridge was to be built.

We are, sadly, stuck with the Spite Bridge and 287, but I think it’s important to remind everyone at every opportunity that the bridge was a product of spite first and useful infrastructure second. Whatever value it has now, it has because that’s where the bridge has always been and where the development occurred around it.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 10:40 pm

50 years ago the people who did the very preliminary proposals actually looked at a terrain map and saw that the places where it is easy to cross the river are at Piermont with a lot of hills and expensive suburb on the Westchester side or Nyack and Tarrytown. Pesky Palisades. Pesky hilly Westchester too.

wise infrastructure August 21, 2015 - 5:38 pm

The notion of 253rd street bridge is most interesting. I have not heard of it before.

Approach roads could be threaded along (double decked over?) the Henry Hudson Park>Van Cortland Park through Woodlawn Cemetery to the Bronx River Parkway/the Metro North tracks.

Consider then converting the Metro North tracks between the Bronx River Parkway and New Rocheal to 4 a lane bridge approach only connection between I-95 and NJ!

Metro North trains south of New Rochelle Station would then follow the sufficiently wide Amtrak corridor through the bronx (with new stations along the the way to Penn Station via a Hellgate and/or to a new Harlem River bridge connection the the Park Avenue Metro North line.

This new rail bridge over the Harlem River would be located between the Willis Avenue and 3rd Avenue Bridges.

Given a new Hudson Bridge of up to 8 lanes, perhaps 2-4 lanes of the George Washington Bridge should be converted to subway (A train) and/or NJT rail use (norther NJ/Rockland to Penn and/or Grand Central).

In short the the winners would be:
*travelers needing to get between Westchester and Queens/LI and NJ
*Northern NJ/Rockland gaining access to Penn Station direct and Grand Central
*Cross Bronx Expressway users (given the they and others would have an alternative
*r/e owners (and locals collecting r/e taxes) on both sides of the bridge
*South Bronx user of the new (high frequency)Metro North Stations

*the dead people in Woodlawn Cemetery
*those along the routes
*tax payers who will have to pick up part of the tab.

johndmuller August 20, 2015 - 9:45 pm

lop is right; 50 years ago there might have been a better place for the original TZB, but right now, the current site is obviously the most appropriate spot for the replacement.

The Cross County Pkwy doesn’t go all the way west to the Hudson or all the way east to US 1 & I-95 (due to vintage NIMBYs keeping the rifraf out of their fair cities (Yonkers and New Rochelle). The CC Pkwy couldn’t handle the traffic then – I-95 and I-287 took some of the load off, but they are both maxed out bumper to bumper going across Bronx and Westchester; the same with I-84 further north. Wherever a new crossing were to go, it would need its own east-west highway (Westchester doesn’t have any other east-west roads to speak of; the hilly terrain runs north-south).

On the Western side of the Hudson, the Palisades (which represent an obstacle for a crossing) go clear up to where the NY/NJ border is. Piermont (where the Palisades taper off and where the Erie RR built its first NYC area terminal for that reason) is sometimes mentioned as a possible alternative site on that side, but it is only a few miles south of Nyack, so why bother changing?

LLQBTT August 21, 2015 - 9:25 am

I hope that fixing that awful toll plaza is part of the plan. Otherwise the new mega improved bridge still remains a long parking lot at certain times of the day.

Larry Littlefield August 19, 2015 - 3:49 pm

Perhaps they’ll all agree to make NYC pay for it, by shutting down part of the subway system or cutting state aid to the city schools.

The bottom line is a larger share of the suburban workforce for Manhattan lives in NJ. Why? Lower taxes for a start. And NJ keeps working to convince companies to move out of NY. How? Lower taxes for a start.

And yet when NJ needs something, it expects NY to pay.

Port Authority tolls have been lower than TBTA tolls for much of the past 25 years. NJ gas taxes are lower. NJ income taxes are higher, but not if the NYC income tax is included.

Yet Christie plays to the something for nothing crowd, and has for his entire term in office.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 4:40 pm

People who want to escape taxes move to Connecticut. The higher ridership on the LIRR and Metro North isn’t all people coming into the city to do some shopping and see a show.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 4:48 pm

Whys shouldn’t New Jerseyans expect something for all the New York taxes they pay?

Bolwerk August 19, 2015 - 5:00 pm

Why should anyone expect anything for all the taxes they pay?

Besides, all jobs are the same. They could just work in a convenience store.

adirondacker12800 August 19, 2015 - 5:36 pm

All offices are the same. When the decision maker decides that he doesn’t like standing up from Summit to Penn Station and moves the office to Bridgewater all those lovely income taxes go with it.

LLQBTT August 20, 2015 - 9:37 am Reply
AlanInSF August 19, 2015 - 5:03 pm

If only there were some degree of excess wealth in Manhattan and it’s New Jersey suburbs that could be tapped to help pay for this.

Larry Littlefield August 19, 2015 - 8:34 pm

Already well tapped, and bound to get more tapped all the time.

The Port Authority is broke.

The NYC and NJ pension funds are among the most underfunded in the country.

The is no money for the MTA capital plan, and the NY and NJ transportation trust fund revenues are all going to past debts.

And taxes are already among the highest in the U.S.

This is a symptom people.

AlanF August 19, 2015 - 5:17 pm

For an overview of the proposed project schedule that Amtrak is working from, the Gateway program viewgraph set presented to the NJ Senate on August 10 is available on the nec.amtrak.com website here: http://nec.amtrak.com/content/.....sey-senate.

Would be useful if Amtrak were to actually lay out the estimated project component costs (beyond the $1 billion for the north Portal Bridge and $300 million for the extension of the concrete casing), but at this stage, perhaps they are better off sticking to hand waving ballpark numbers of $15 to $20 billion.

BSPABNY August 20, 2015 - 7:50 am

I have no problem with Amtrak’s use of rough cost estimates at this point in the process. There isn’t enough information yet to determine the costs to more than the nearest billion.

My problem is we should be talking about $3-$5 billion, not $14-$25 billion. When the costs are close to an order of magnitude higher than what the rest of the world would consider reasonable, the burden of proof is on Amtrak to be more transparent with the basis for the cost estimates. Hand waving at $20 billion sounds like maybe they don’t want to do the project. It’s hard to take Amtrak seriously at this point.

eo August 21, 2015 - 8:47 am

Forget about busting the unions, but the work rules they impose make the cost at least double. How is it that a Spanish Tunnel Boring Machine here in NY requires 25 people to operate vs 7 in Spain?(This happened on ESA) That is why. The unions should lose their right to negotiate over work rules and have the option of bargaining only over wages. The negotiation over work rules is left from a century ago when the government safety rules were non-existent, so the unions had to step in and do it. Now times are different, the government rules about safety are superior to anything the union can come up with, but the unions have gotten into the habit of inventing useless positions and rules that require them so that certain amount of their members get paid for practically doing nothing (or half the work of an European worker).

Phil August 19, 2015 - 5:38 pm

Help me out here – I am from the Midwest and have no idea about the issues involved.

If you work in NJ why would you live in NY. And visa-versa? Doesn’t the cost and time to commute by car exceed the value of a lower priced home on either side?

Chris August 19, 2015 - 7:23 pm

Salaries tend to be significantly higher in NYC than NJ. Cost of living is generally cheaper in NJ and you can have a suburban lifestyle with a car and single family home if that’s the sort of thing that you want.

Most people don’t commute to Manhattan by car and the cost of transit it’s partially offset by the reduced depreciation and gas bill if you own one.

Larry Littlefield August 19, 2015 - 8:35 pm

Manhattan is right across the river from NJ, and as long as the crossings were not congested and working, many of the NJ suburbs are closer to Manhattan than the NY suburbs.

And until recently, NJ taxes were much lower.

Phil August 19, 2015 - 9:02 pm

If they are so close then why the discrepancy in pay? What is in NY that is so attractive if labor costs are so high and quality of life is so low?

Serious questions here, I really don’t understand.

Phantom August 19, 2015 - 11:14 pm

All roads and rails lead to Manhattan. If you are an employer in much of. NJ, you can’t attract the best workers from LI or CT or even NYC since the transit options are no good.

If you are an employer in NYC, you can get employees from all over the city and from all the suburbs since all the trains and buses come right here.

And huge numbers of people like living in the five boroughs too, even if the apartments are small and even if cars are less of an option

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 12:44 am

If you are employer in NJ you attract them from NJ. There are almost 9 million people in New Jersey. One of them will be a good fit for the job.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 10:30 am

The problem is probably less the quality of New Jersey’s workforce (which probably at least exceeds that of Long Island) and more the quality of New Jersey’s employment centers. Besides NYC and Philadelphia not being in the state, you have such grandiose downtowns as Jersey City, Newark, Trenton, Atlantic City, and Paterson. Might be a few more cities, some with a corporate headquarters here or there, but the next options for employment are pretty much train stops with suburban office parks.

Stewart Clamen August 20, 2015 - 10:59 am

It’d be great if New Jersey could capture more of the income tax revenue lost to New York State due to the commuters to Manhattan. Maybe then they could lower property taxes (which are the highest in the US).

If you were trying to attract high-value white-collar jobs, Newark would be the obvious choice in the North, given its location on the mass transit network. They are efforts to do that, but nothing can really compete with Manhattan as a job center.

Eric August 23, 2015 - 8:45 am

Through-running LIRR and Metro North to Newark would do a lot to fix that. It would mean an extra 10-15 minutes of sitting on a empty reverse-peak train from NY Penn Station. With wifi, this would quite competitive with walking or subway to most Midtown jobs.

adirondacker12800 August 23, 2015 - 1:46 pm

Trying to wedge 10 pounds of train into a 5 pound sack and the speed restrictions on Portal Bridge make it a 20 minute ride.

Ryan August 20, 2015 - 11:19 am

New Jersey being a shithole that everyone wants to escape from is in no small part due to these infectious memes about Jersey’s shittiness, which are self-affirming and compound a general unwillingness to build up or invest in salvageable downtowns like Newark or Trenton. Jersey City, as an example, is actually quite nice.

That’s only half the battle, of course – and only in places that aren’t yet damaged beyond all repair (Atlantic City.) But the battle can’t be won unless we stop talking about how hopeless and trashy Newark is and instead start talking about how great a place Newark could be were it not held back by __________.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 1:08 pm

I wasn’t reciting “memes.” It wasn’t even a particularly negative comment, except to say the cities aren’t very suitable for the sort of large scale high-level service industry headquarters NYC or even Philadelphia can attract.

NJ’s political culture might be ghoulish and even kind of parasitic, but I’m not particularly enamored with these hate the next state over memes.

Ryan August 20, 2015 - 2:00 pm

I’m just so sick of seeing anti-NJ memes that I may be a little more inclined to read negatively into comments that are perhaps not intended as slams against the state (although I’m struggling to read ‘such grandiose downtowns’ in anything other than the most disparaging tone of voice my mind can come up with).

And I question the assertion that NJ’s cities wouldn’t be suitable for attracting certain high-level industry headquarters away from NYC; to use an example on the other side of the Hudson, there’s no logical reason why Hartford is the Insurance Capital of the World when NYC’s financial district would seem to be a more attractive choice for headquartering in, and yet there’s still a great many insurance agencies choosing to headquarter in Hartford. Perhaps that’s an aberration, but the fact is that there are and can be advantages in headquartering in a city near to but not actually NYC, and I do think at least half of the battle is in overcoming the aforementioned memes about NJ.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 2:35 pm

Hartford is the insurance capital because they don’t do much else in Hartford. There’s lots of insurance going on in New York and even some in lowly Newark. And lots out in suburban New Jersey. Pharmaceuticals are important. Telecom is still important, companies that spun off from Bell Labs are still around.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 4:53 pm

The reason is probably largely historical. Hartford had a long history with insurance as its niche industry. Most small-medium to medium sized cities managed some sort of niche industry. Paterson, NJ, did silk. Pittsburgh and many others did steel. Hartford was probably lucky its niche was service-oriented rather than industrial, because not any low-IQ worker in Appalachia can do that kind of work.

I can see a few reasons NYC was a poor historical seat for the insurance industry. To begin, insurance people make their money minimizing their own exposure to risk and maximizing premiums, while finance people often make it by taking big gambles. So the culture of Wall Street is, in a sense, the opposite of what an insurance company wants. Being away from the corruption and get-rich-quick culture of Wall Street may have helped Hartford’s longevity rather than hurt it. That same reason also might be why Newark managed to be an (and to an extent still is) insurance center too.

As for poaching industries, I don’t see it. The industrial players that were poachable have already largely left for Texas or China. I’d say the best bet for a city like Paterson or Trenton is probably economic diversification – which New Jersey even has, outside its cities….

Places like Camden and Atlantic City? Maybe they’re just fucked.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 5:01 pm

Also replicating the executive entertainment critical mass of NYC would probably be nearly impossible: shows, bars, world class restaurants, hotels, sightseeing, museums, etc..

Stewart Clamen August 20, 2015 - 5:14 pm

Camden has a long ways to go, but it is redeveloping some as a health/education center.

Also, it’s poaching some jobs from Philadelphia and Cherry Hill.



Phantom August 20, 2015 - 4:57 pm

–One of them will be a good fit for the job.–

Absolutely not true. Not in my company. Not in many companies.

And counting the population of the entire state of NJ means you presume that an employer in Franklin Lakes can attract staff from Cape May. Which is again not true.

My office is in Manhattan. Some of the top people here live in Manhattan and Brooklyn but also Suffolk, Connecticut, Westchester, NJ. Were we to move to say Parsippany, we’d have to replace a lot of them, for reasons of an painful or un doable commute.

adirondacker12800 August 20, 2015 - 9:36 pm

And if you moved the company to Parsippany some of them would move to Dover and some of them would move to Franklin Lakes and some of them would move to Troy Hills. Especially at risk of that happening if the decision maker lives in Short Hills and has grown weary of standing all the way to Maplewood…. or Stamford if he’s grown weary of the commute from Cos Cob.
People like to think they are irreplaceable but most jobs and most people filling them aren’t.

LLQBTT August 21, 2015 - 9:29 am

Many too big to fail banks have their back offices across the river in Jersey City. They moved them there 2 decades or so ago. Rents are cheaper, tax incentives greater. Many of these back office people are from NY. This works because the PATH train exists to shuttle the workers back and forth.

Eric F August 20, 2015 - 3:42 pm

Far be it from me to criticize the Obama administration, but if I may: another example of his lack of appreciation of transportation issues (and probably why he didn’t use his stimulus to actually stimulate anything) is in putting nonentities like the current secretary at the head of the USDOT. His first appointment was his only Republican in the cabinet. I guess he was a transit buff, and was popular among the Jon Stewart crowd, but to me he seemed like a guy who just wasn’t all that bright or persuasive. If you want to ding Bush, he relegated the DOT as well, appointing the one Democrat in his cabinet as DOT head, I think Norm Mineta was the guy. Putting the least wired-in guy in your cabinet as DOT head just doesn’t seem like what you do when you want to elevate the importance of transport. The current guy is an ex-mayor of a mid-tier city who I’m not aware of being some transport expert of visionary. I expect this is a placeholder so he can later run for statewide office in NC. Ok, great for the Party, but how does that help up with getting a tunnel done?

It would be nice if a true technocrat was picked to head what should be a technocratic department or, barring that, some guy/gal who has an actual track record of actually getting projects built. There must be scores of people at tollway authorities in Texas or working transit expansion in the Denver area who could do a better job with this agency.

Bolwerk August 20, 2015 - 4:30 pm

I have trouble blaming LaHood. Obviously his effectiveness was weakened first by Congressional intransigence beginning in the Democratic Party, and later by the election of some of the most inept and intractable governors in the country, including Christie and Cuomo. At least three governors canceled high-profile projects that might may have gone well for his tenure.

Foxx I’m less sure about, but note that he pretty much has all of LaHood’s extant problems plus he came in during the tail end of a lameduck presidency. If he somehow gets a trans-Hudson tunnel started, it will probably be seen as a success on his part.

Anyway, Gates and later Hagel (both Defense) were also Republikans. He tried to nominate others to cabinet-level positions, Judd Greg (Commerce) comes to mind, but their own scandals generally derailed it. Coincidence?

Jim August 20, 2015 - 6:33 pm

Like the guv says, we all need to do our part. I think there are two things we all can do to move this along:

1). As I’ve said before, name the old Amtrak tubes. One should be “Christie” and the other should be “Andy.” That way, the reporters can say, “You’ll be late for work because Andy is all blocked up today.”

2). Promise Cuomo that after the new tunnels are built, he can put a casino in the old ones. That should get us a couple of good tubes in no time at all.

Peter August 21, 2015 - 1:42 pm

Frankly I think everyone is going about this the wrong way. Why are we not posting this an issue of national defense? I mean, people have a conniption about the idea of “oh you can hack the power grid” but I have no clue why this doesn’t get that level of scrutiny.

Personally, I think the schedule can be accelerated markedly by (1) waiving a lot of EIS requirements ; (2) have the Army Corps of Engineers PM the project; and (3) use fixed-price contacts (I have no knowledge of what the legalities are about suspending union rules and thusly I leave that for the experts).

C’mon everyone, lets think outside the (tunnel) box here…..


Leave a Comment