For NJ, Gateway rail tunnel project could come with $5 billion price tag
A formal deal was announced Thursday regarding the proposed Gateway Trans-Hudson rail tunnel that would have the federal government paying for 50 percent of the project, leaving New York and New Jersey to cover the remaining balance. The problem? The Garden State’s Transportation Trust Fund was still on pace to run out of money July 1, 2016.
Governors Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) confirmed that the US Department of Transportation and Amtrak agreed to cover no less than 50 percent of the project costs through grants and other federal funding.
New Jersey will be on the hook for a quarter of the Gateway project cost. That would be at least $5 billion, but likely more as costs rise for labor and equipment. Where will the state get the cash to replenish the TTF and to pay its portion of the tunnel construction?
“I don’t know the answer to that, but where there’s a will there’s a way and there’s will to get this done and I think because of the importance to everybody of this project there will be a will to find the way to get this financed,” said Forward New Jersey Chairman Tom Bracken.
It can’t be denied that because of the deteriorating condition of the cross-Hudson tunnels there’s a dire need for Gateway, according to Bracken. He said the bi-state agreement was a prime example of what can happen when our elected representatives sit down and work together to solve an impending crisis.
“The Gateway tunnel and our Transportation Trust Fund needs are complementary,” Bracken said. “They need each other.”
New Jersey has to face the unfortunate reality that it can’t do the kinds of public works projects the state needs like Gateway without a guaranteed, renewable and reliable source of revenue for the TTF said the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee.
“That really can only be satisfactorily answered in one way; raising the gas tax,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). “There is a lot of political opposition to it. The sad reality is there are not really any good alternatives and without money we cannot as a state live up to our obligation to fund 25 percent of the Gateway project.”
The state would also be unable to improve its transportation infrastructure if a recurring revenue source isn’t identified and agreed upon Wisniewski stated.
In their agreement announcement, Christie and Cuomo said they will immediately direct the Port Authority of NYNJ in consultation Amtrak and the USDOT to establish a development corporation to oversee the construction and execution of the Gateway project.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinmcardle1.