Lights illuminate a tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, U.S. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg) 

NYC Tunnel Funding Imperiled as U.S. Sees Scant Need for Urgency

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Transit Administration made a determination that promises to stall federal funding for a new tunnel under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey to replace a century-old one that engineers say could become inoperable within the next 15 years.

The Gateway Program Development Corp., which is overseeing that project and the construction of a nearby bridge, said the agency’s decision to assign both “Medium-Low” ratings fails to recognize the urgency of constructing vital links carrying rail passengers between Washington D.C. and Boston and the New York City-area. Hurricane Sandy flooded the current tunnel, creating a risk of failure that led former President Barack Obama call it the most important U.S. infrastructure need, committing the federal government to finance half its cost.

President Donald Trump disregarded that decision, saying the tunnel should be financed by New York and New Jersey as a local project. Amtrak, a federally-owned corporation, owns the current link. The FTA rating falls below the requirement that projects receive a medium or better overall rating to advance and be eligible for federal capital investment grants.

The FTA estimates that the tunnel and a replacement for the Portal North Bridge will cost about $15 billion including financing expenses.

Gateway Chairman Jerry Zaro said its financial applications to the FTA had been updated to satisfy critiques, with New Jersey committing $600 million to replace the century-old Portal North Bridge approaching the tunnel. That exceeded the 30 percent local match legally required to advance the project to the engineering phase, Zaro said. The FTA rating ignored more than $5.5 billion committed by New York and New Jersey, Zaro said.

“These are projects of national significance,” Zaro said. “There is bi-partisan support in Congress and more than $1 billion in appropriated monies that can be used toward these projects. All that is missing is a federal partner willing to work with us to rebuild a vital part of America’s infrastructure.”

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