As Cuomo Waffles, Schumer Says Hudson River Gateway Tunnel Expansion Is A Go

Standing in the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged that a massive Amtrak expansion is finally coming to New York and New Jersey. The nearly $12 billion so-called Gateway Project would create a new train tunnel under the Hudson River, doubling capacity for the rail service’s Northeast Corridor line. 

With the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigeig beside him, Schumer praised the Biden administration for approving an environmental impact statement last month, which could allow construction plans to move forward. The senator’s plan, which Amtrak is on board with, would first create a new tunnel under the Hudson, and then repair the existing tunnel which was worn down by Superstorm Sandy. Schumer suggested that construction could begin as early as 2023.

“It could be seven years, it could be five years, it could be 10 years, but this tunnel will not last,” said Schumer, referring to the 111-year-old tunnel that Amtrak’s and NJ Transit’s commuter rails currently rely on. “So we are full speed ahead.”

A revitalized Hudson River train line has long had broad support on both sides of the water. But under the Trump administration, the project stalled, and a previous version was killed by then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he sought to brandish his credentials among Republican voters nationally as a fiscal conservative.

Schumer said much of the $11.6  billion new project will be funded by the impending federal infrastructure bill, and thanked Buttigeig for prioritizing the project.  

“If one of these tunnels were to go out of service, you would be feeling the impact back in Indiana where I come from,” Buttigeig said to reporters. “That’s how important this is.”

But he did not directly address questions about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who previously threatened to withhold state funding for the project in favor of his own alternative proposal. (New York and New Jersey are committed to each contributing 25% of the cost, with the feds covering the remaining 50%.) Cuomo has put forth a plan that would repair and keep the existing infrastructure in use first, not unlike the MTA’s plan to repair the L train tunnel, a suggestion that critics have dismissed.

“I’m not going to pay unless it is a smart, efficient, effective process, period,” Cuomo said at a press conference last month. “And if the federal government wants to do stupid, they can do stupid with their money. But we’re not going to do stupid with our money.”

Cuomo’s current stance on Schumer’s proposal remains unclear. In a statement today, the governor said he felt “more optimistic about the direction of this major project.” Still, he noted that he expected to see “a smart, fair, cost-effective plan” to get the project completed.

The governor’s press team did not respond to requests for clarification about his willingness to fund the new tunnel project.

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