(Bloomberg) -- The Gateway plan to replace two century-old commuter-train tunnels linking Manhattan and New Jersey should now be re-evaluated for federal aid after organizers cut costs and refined the design.
Supporters delivered that message Friday, saying the U.S. government needs to revisit its initial skepticism. More than $160 million has been cut from a $1.6 billion replacement for the Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey, which will replace a 108-year-old swing-span drawbridge that closes for maritime traffic. That will improve access to and from the new tunnels under the Hudson River.
The $13 billion cost of the new tunnels secured a commitment from former President Barack Obama that the federal government would share half the costs. That promise was nullified by President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation last year. Administration officials said the states couldn’t be considered to be sharing half the costs if they were also borrowing money for the project from the federal government, even though the states would repay it.
The current tunnels suffered corrosive damage in 2012 when they were flooded with salt water during Hurricane Sandy, and have an estimated 20 years more of use before they fail, Gateway officials have said.
The consequences of a shutdown without a replacement would be devastating to East Coast rail traffic serving a corridor between Washington and Boston representing about 10 percent of the U.S. economy, said Steven Cohen, chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corp. He said the project will allow more capacity, faster trains and improved reliability.
“These federal loans, they’re designed for this purpose,” Cohen told reporters at a press conference Friday. “This project will move forward because it has to move forward. You can’t be in a position that this tunnel could fail.”
The tunnels’ design is now about 30 percent complete, and Gateway officials expect further cost reductions as it proceeds, said Gateway Executive Director John Porcari.
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