Trump's Budget Lacks Money for Crucial NYC-Area Gateway Work

(Bloomberg) -- Before anyone could ask, the deputy U.S. transportation secretary made it very clear: President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget doesn’t earmark any money for the New York-area Gateway rail project.

“Those transit projects are local responsibilities, and elected officials from New York and New Jersey are the ones accountable for them,” Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen said Monday, unsolicited, in a budget briefing call with reporters.

Trump's Budget Lacks Money for Crucial NYC-Area Gateway Work

Officials from the two states and the Trump administration have clashed over funding for the $30 billion Gateway Project, a regional rail overhaul including a new tunnel under the Hudson River into Manhattan that’s critical for the entire Northeast Corridor. While the states expect the federal government to pay more, the administration insists that more local funding is needed.

“Those are projects that those communities themselves have thus far chosen not to fund,” Rosen said. “While we occasionally hear reports that officials from those states say they will do so, there is not yet any discernible path forward.”

Deal, No Deal

While officials from the two states said they had a deal with former President Barack Obama’s administration to split the cost of the project, the Trump administration has said no such deal exists.

Gateway supporters thought they made a major step forward with the appropriations bill signed by Trump on Feb. 15 to fund federal agencies through September. They said it reversed a Trump policy that barred New York and New Jersey from using federal loans toward their local cost share.

But Rosen said on the call with reporters that neither that bill nor the budget Trump released Monday includes funding earmarked for Gateway. The administration’s position is that the transit projects are ineligible for federal funding without more local money committed.

“There is no reason for the federal government to have those projects jump the line and receive massive federal subsidies for projects that presently are ineligible and which lack realistic plans and commitments,” Rosen said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Trump’s failure to include funding for Gateway in his budget “political posturing.” He said claims that funding is the responsibility of local officials when Amtrak owns the tunnel are “ridiculous.”

Trump's Budget Lacks Money for Crucial NYC-Area Gateway Work

“The Trump administration must stop playing political games and holding this funding hostage,” Cuomo said in a statement. “If the federal government refuses to fund this project, then the president will have to answer to the travelers and businesses across the Northeast who rely on this critical transit corridor.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has vowed to introduce legislation tied to the next federal budget that would require the U.S. government to reimburse New York and New Jersey for any money they spend on their own. The state outlays would be matched by billions of dollars in federal funds already approved by Congress that Trump has refused to release, Schumer has said.

The appropriations bill included $650 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, “a significant portion” of which will go toward Gateway, according to Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes Manhattan and Brooklyn. Trump’s budget proposes $325.5 million for the Northeast Corridor in fiscal 2020.

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