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Gateway Tunnel Project Gets Federal Funding In Latest Government Spending Bill

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours the Gateway tunnel in December 2018.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo tours the Gateway tunnel in December 2018. GovernorAndrewCuomo/Flickr

The Gateway Tunnel project, which seeks to connect Penn Station and New Jersey with a newly built rail tunnel under the Hudson River, is expected to receive a fresh injection of funding after President Donald Trump signed a federal spending bill on Friday that included $650 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

A “significant portion” of the earmarked Northeast Corridor funds is expected to go to Gateway, according to Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “Keeping this project on track is vital, and I’m pleased we were able to have this vital funding included,” he said in a statement last week.

In a separate press release, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, of New Jersey, said that an additional $130.1 million in transit formula grants can also be used toward the project. He called the funding “another major victory that keeps the Gateway Project on the right track.”

The spending package, which won bipartisan support and ended weeks of fighting between Democrats and the president over his desire to fund a southern border wall, will fund the government through September. The bill did not include funding for the border wall and Trump has instead declared a national emergency in an attempt to redirect taxpayer money toward erecting it.

Despite threats of a veto last year from Trump, last year’s spending bill also included funding for Gateway: a total of $540 million. It also made the project eligible for several U.S. Transportation Department grants.

Friday’s legislation also reverses the administration’s decision to prevent states like New York and New Jersey from using federal loans to cover their share of jointly financed transportation projects.

All told, the project, which is considered the most important and urgent transportation initiative in the Northeast, is expected to cost at least $13 billion. The existing tunnel, which is 108 years old, was badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy and has been described as a "ticking time bomb."

Gateway has been imperiled under Trump, who initially tried to use the project as a bargaining chip with Democrats over their dispute in funding his southern border wall. Ever since that tactic failed, he has repeatedly sought to block federal funding and renege on a deal made under the previous administration. In 2015, after being urged by federal transportation officials to come to a consensus, New York and New Jersey agreed to pay for half of the funding for the first phase of the project. The other half was to be paid by the federal government.

In November, Governor Andrew Cuomo met with Trump in Washington D.C. in hopes of persuading the president to change his mind. Prior to their meeting, Trump told the New York Post, “It’s a very expensive project, as you know. Probably the world’s most expensive project.”

Nevertheless, Cuomo came out of the meeting sounding positive. "It's fair to say the president was receptive to what we were talking about," he told reporters. "The president said he wanted to take next steps to find a way forward."

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