The economic case for investing in the Gateway Program is crystal clear. If we build, we would create over 70,000 jobs and generate over $19 billion in economic benefits. If we do not build, we would cost the economy $16 billion, $7 billion in lost tax revenue, and a loss of nearly $23 billion in lost property value.’
Infrastructure. It’s been a word discussed at length, both in Washington D.C. and here in New York City since the Biden administration took office eight months ago. With a key deadline this month to move legislation forward, hopes are high for the types of investments that will shape the New York region for generations to come.
No other local project is in need of investment more than the Gateway Program. We have a window of opportunity to get this project underway that we’ve never had before, and may never see again.
Last week, the Port Authority submitted an updated financial plan for the Hudson Tunnel Project that highlighted a number of key project improvements which should now qualify it for an improved rating and funding from the Federal Transit Administration. These include a completed Environmental Impact Statement, swift action by Amtrak over the summer to acquire critical property, and firm funding commitments from the states of New York and New Jersey.
Just as New Jersey increased its share of the Portal North Bridge project last year, we applaud the state of New York for using last week’s filing to bring its overall share of the initial Gateway projects, the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel Projects, to 25 percent.
Sometimes negotiations, even on megaprojects, don’t have to be complicated, and the newly updated financial plan for the Hudson Tunnel Project reflects the funding split of 50 percent at the federal, and 25 percent each from New York and New Jersey, which was agreed upon by all parties during the final year of the Obama administration.
It’s a logical arrangement given that the mobility and economic benefits of each project extend well beyond the geographic boundary of the Hudson River.
The Gateway Program is crucial to the region because it will transform the busiest stretch of rail in North America: the 10 miles between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. The first phase will replace two 110-year-old assets, the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River—which regularly gets stuck open when ships pass—and the North River Tunnel under the Hudson, which was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1910, badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and in need of full rehabilitation.
The economic case for investing in the Gateway Program is crystal clear. If we build, we would create over 70,000 jobs and generate over $19 billion in economic benefits. If we do not build, we would cost the economy $16 billion, $7 billion in lost tax revenue, and a loss of nearly $23 billion in lost property value.
The Gateway Program’s financial plan is a fair deal that fulfills the statutorily-required 50/50 split between New York and New Jersey for the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel, which together comprise the initial projects of the overall Gateway Program. It is worthy of our enthusiastic support because both projects are critical to ensuring and improving the reliability and safety of the Northeast Corridor—a vital element of our national transportation infrastructure upon which nearly 20 percent of the nation’s GDP depends.
We are also very pleased that the Biden administration will allow low-interest federal financing to be part of the project funding mix, which had been an obstacle to putting an agreement together over the last few years. In 2018, frustrated by the lack of progress toward a funding solution and mindful of the urgent need to replace the century-old Portal Bridge, Governor Phil Murphy and the state of New Jersey shouldered the entire local share of the project, including bonding worth up to $600 million.
This move got construction started, and helped win a $766 million grant from the federal government.
With the hurdles of the past few years now behind them, the Hudson Tunnel Project partners have acted smartly to control costs. The project is still $400 million below its 2017 estimates, and we fully expect that the Gateway Development Commission will do everything in its power to keep the project on time and under budget.
The bottom line is that the Hudson Tunnel Project is absolutely essential for not only New York City, the region, and the entire Northeast Corridor, but over the long term, it will benefit the national economy by creating many thousands of good-paying direct and indirect jobs that are sorely needed as we recover from the pandemic.
We’ve never had a better opportunity to move this project forward. Let’s get building!
Melva M. Miller is the chief executive officer at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), and Chris Boylan is the director, governmental and strategic partnerships at the General Contractors Association of New York. Both are members of the Build Gateway Now Coalition at buildgateway.org.