A new study finds almost half of residents in the New Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania region believe building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and modernizing a 108-year-old rail bridge that leads into the current rail tube should be the area’s top transportation priorities.

In the survey — released by the Gateway Program Development Corporation, the group that would oversee the proposed project that bears its name — 45% of respondents rated the Gateway Tunnel and the Portal North Bridge Projects as the most important transportation priorities in the entire region.

Currently there is only one rail tunnel into New York from New Jersey, and it frequently gets backed up by a variety of mechanical problems and issues. The Portal Bridge frequently gets stuck out of place, and track must be hammered back into position by a worker with a sledgehammer while Northeast Corridor and Amtrak trains are delayed.

According to Steve Sigmund, chief of public outreach for the Gateway Program Development Corporation, the survey also found 70% of respondents want the Gateway Tunnel project built now — with about half saying the cost should be trimmed. The other half just want political fights about the project over, and for the tunnel to be built.

“But all of them see the program, particularly the new tunnel under the Hudson and replacing the 108-year-old Portal Bridge as critical," Sigmund said.

Additionally, almost 80% of those surveyed said a national infrastructure plan is "vital to the region and to the country," he said. But 60% think a national infrastructure plan is unlikely to be passed before the 2020 elections.

He said the survey also finds rail is considered the mode of transportation in the region “in the most urgent need of modernization” (37%), followed by roads (28%) and “bridges and tunnels” (21%).

“They see the deterioration of the infrastructure that they rely on to get to and from work and live their lives, and they want to see that fixed," Sigmund said.

The survey also found of those who take NJ Transit and/or Amtrak, well over half of respondents would switch to driving or riding the bus, taking the PATH or taking a ferry if one of the existing North River tunnel tubes was closed, adding an even greater burden to congestion in the region.

“The big takeaway is you need to get the Gateway program built and we need infrastructure spending," Sigmund said. "I mean it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a bipartisan issue.”

Local officials had worked out a cost-sharing agreement for the Gateway project with the Obama administration, but Trump has resisted allocating federal funding for the project — leaving it largely in limbo.

A bipartisan bill sponsored in Trenton by the Senate’s majority and minority leaders this summer empowers and expand the Gateway Development Corporation into a formal bi-state commission to take charge of developing the new rail tunnel — if the funding ever comes through.

Sigmund said the survey also finds there is broad agreement that “the nation has under-invested in infrastructure, and it’s having a very big impact on people’s lives and on the productivity of the national economy and people want it fixed.”

He added the states of New Jersey and New York are committed to spending a combined $6 billion to pay for the Gateway project, but said the federal government must do its part and match that amount to allow the project to move forward.

The survey was conducted from July 11 to July by SurveyMonkey, and included 463 adults living in New Jersey, New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania. The respondents were randomly selected and represent a balance of gender, age, education and income levels.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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