Repeated rail delays catch the attention of Obama Administration
The massive NJ Transit delays in late July have gotten the attention of the Obama Administration.
Tuesday morning, Federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was scheduled to meet in Newark with Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to discuss repairing the 105-year-old trans-Hudson rail tunnels and the planned Gateway rail project.
"We need to make our investment for our children and our grandchildren and to strengthen the economy. This is something that needs to be done now," said State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare). "We cannot afford not to have this (Gateway) tunnel go forward. This tunnel will mean an additional $4 billion income for the state of New Jersey."
At an Aug. 10 Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner said his agency would urge the federal government to pick up 80 percent of the tab for the planned Gateway trans-Hudson rail tunnel.
"If you could get an 80 percent federal grant and a 20 percent match, that's a home run. I'm hoping that both sides of the (Hudson) river recognize what a priority this project is and they don't play politics with it," Sweeney said.
The politics have already begun. "It's not my tunnel," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters last week.
At the hearing, Gardner also said more than $30 billion remains in the federal Railroad Rehabilitation Infrastructure Financing program for low-interest loans. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority got a $967.1 million loan from the program in May at a 2.38 percent interest rate. Sweeney said that also made a deal on the tunnel more attractive.
"President Obama announced that Gateway is the top rail priority in the nation," noted Senate Legislative Oversight Committee Chairman Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) in a press release statement. "If Transportation Secretary Foxx puts an 80-20 split on the table when he meets with Governor Christie, there is no reason not to reach a quick agreement."
Christie's office did not offer a pre-meeting statement and it remained unclear if the governor or either of the U.S. senators will address the media after the discussion Tuesday.