By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Rather than try to downplay reports that costs for the Gateway Tunnel project are going up, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul leaned into it Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference to unveil a new Penn Station concourse for the Long Island Rail Road, Gov. Hochul told reporters that it was important to get the word out regarding the increased cost of the passenger rail tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River.
The current estimated cost is more than $16 billion, $2 billion more than what was estimated a year ago. The increase is due to inflation.
“We wanted to get those numbers out there early, so we can bolster our arguments to the federal government for a larger share,” Gov. Hochul said. “That’s exactly why it was important to get those numbers out now.”
The Gateway Tunnel project is considered to be a critical project not just for the two states but for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Currently, that corridor is served by a pair of one-way tunnels that opened 112 years ago, connecting Penn Station to Weehawken, N.J. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains use the tunnels to shuttle thousands of rail passengers on a daily basis.
Besides shuttling commuters back and forth from the New Jersey suburbs, the tunnels are also a lynchpin for the Northeast Corridor, the busiest passenger rail system in the U.S.
A decade ago, flood damage caused by Superstorm Sandy heightened the need for new tunnels, leading officials from both states to lobby Washington for support.
Under the plan, two new tunnels would be developed, and once they are opened, work would begin on upgrading the existing tunnels to double the rail capacity.
In addition to the cost increase, media reports last week also indicated the project would not be completed until 2038, which is three years later than officials previously announced.
Two months ago, New York and New Jersey officials reached an agreement to split their share of the project, but the expectation is for the federal government to pay at least half, or more, of the cost.
The Gateway Project also includes replacing a 112-year-old bridge in New Jersey. The states have agreed to each pay $386.2 million for the Portal North Bridge. That’s expected to cover about 40% of the costs for that phase of the project.