Plans to build a Gateway Rail Tunnel under the Hudson River have been given a financial push forward thanks to $70 million in funding that will be used for preliminary engineering work to accelerate the project, the Port Authority of NY and NJ announced Wednesday.

A New Jersey Transit train travels across a portal bridge in Kearny, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

According to the Port Authority, $35 million in federal funding from Amtrak will be added to another $35 million from the Port Authority so that environmental reviews and the permit process for the tunnel project can be expedited.

"This financial commitment will help build momentum and expedite review and permitting for the rehabilitation of the existing tunnel and creation of the new tunnel," the Port Authority said in a statement.

In addition to the funding, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department will take steps to "accelerate federal environmental reviews and permitting for the Hudson Tunnel Project," according to a statement released Wednesday by the Port Authority.

In November, the federal government agreed to fund at least 50 percent of the cost of the project. As part of the deal, state and federal officials will create a development corporation to oversee the project moving forward. The estimated cost of the project is about $20 billion and could take a decade to complete.

The federal government’s agreement to fund half the project follows the proposal outlined in a joint letter sent by NJ Gov. Chris Christie and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to President Barack Obama in September, asking the federal government to fund half the stalled project.

According to officials, the new, two-track trans-Hudson rail tunnel "will allow for the closure and rehabilitation of the existing 106-year old tunnel that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012." The new tunnel will provide a "vital backup" to the existing century-old tunnel, officials said.

The existing tunnel already operates at peak capacity. Electrical problems, especially along the Northeast Corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston, result in regular delays along the line. The Associated Press reports that 750,000 people ride the corridor each day on Amtrak or several commuter lines, according to Amtrak.

 

"The need to provide new rail tunnels under the Hudson has never been greater. Riders are suffering from delays, the current tunnels are in severe disrepair and today’s announcement can help move the project forward," Rep. Bill Pascrell, (D-NJ) said in a statement. "We know that this problem could have been alleviated sooner if the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) Tunnel project had continued, but when Gov. Christie shut down the project with shovels in the ground, New Jersey was set back greatly."

Toniann Antonelli can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.