WASHINGTON — Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is acknowledging that President Donald Trump has asked Speaker Paul Ryan to block funding for a multi-billion dollar railway tunnel project that's a top priority of the Senate's top Democrat.

In contentious exchanges with several lawmakers, Chao told a House committee Tuesday that Trump indeed is intervening to try to kill the project. She said that New York and New Jersey "have no skin in the game" and need to pony up more money to help pay for the Gateway Project, which would build a new tunnel under the Hudson River and make other critically sought improvements.

News that the president was trying to withhold funding was first published over the weekend by the Washington Post, which noted that House Speaker Paul Ryan was surprised by Trump's request.

Gateway is a top priority of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and top Trump antagonist.

The House has approved $900 million for the project.

The $30 billion Gateway project is backed by the bipartisan congressional delegations from New Jersey and New York as well as Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It also had the backing of former Gov. Chris Christie after he nixed the ARC tunnel plan in 2010.

The project would build a new rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River and replace the Portal Bridge, which carries 450 trains daily between Newark and New York.

The existing tunnel, built in 1910, was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy when 10 million gallons of salt water corroded the walls and electrical cables. Amtrak has warned that inaction on the tunnel would severely cut rail capacity in the years ahead.

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