WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to pull federal funding for a project that would replace century-old tunnels desperately needed for New York-New Jersey commuter trains, according to a Washington Post report.

Citing four officials "familiar with the discussions," the Post reported that Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday to make sure Washington contributes no money to the Gateway project.

According to the report, Ryan seemed "surprised" at the statement. Officials told the Post that Trump fears the project would be a boondoggle.

The Obama administration had agreed to fund half the project in 2016. However, Trump proposed a plan in February that emphasized a private, rather than federal, investments in the project.  The Trump plan would also limit the federal share for projects to 20 percent.

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 an earlier plan.

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.

“The Gateway project is probably the most important infrastructure project, not only for New Jersey and for the region, but for the entire country,”  Janna Chernetz, New Jersey senior policy director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said.

Congressman Bill Pascrell called the idea of the project being held up by Trump's order "mindless arson and petty spite we have come to associate with this president." He vowed to not be deterred by a "dispiriting setback."

"Failure to build Gateway will negatively impact generations of residents up and down the eastern seaboard. That's tens of millions of people. The lives of young families, ambitious professionals, budding entrepreneurs, and countless working Americans will be cut short or simply never realized if we do not see this lifeblood resource through," the 9th Congressional District Demorcrat wrote in a statement.

In his statement Pascrell blasted Christie for cancelling the ARC tunnel project in 2010 as a way to "engorge his bloated ambition."

A representative for Amtrak said the federal transit corporation has no comment on the Post story.

 

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ