Governor Andrew Cuomo is willing to try anything to secure funding for a new train tunnel under the Hudson River, even it means sacrificing the naming rights to his arch-nemesis—or destroying the current dilapidated tunnel from the inside with his bare hands.
"Whatever name they want, we would do," Cuomo reportedly announced during a late night tour of the tunnel on Wednesday, when asked if he'd consider naming it after Trump in exchange for federal money to rehabilitate the existing tunnel and build a new one.
In order to further demonstrate the urgency of the repair work, Cuomo went ahead and began breaking off pieces of the dark and musty tunnel. "That's your Hudson River Tunnel," he exclaimed, pulling a rusty piece of metal from the track bed. "That's not a good thing." He then dangled his lower body over a manhole, running his boot alongside a peeling wall as he added: "You can see how it just flakes off." (Skip to about 4:00 for the destruction).
The century-old Amtrak tunnel was badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy, and experts say it's in danger of failing at any moment. When it does, the vast majority of the 200,000 daily riders who pass through the tunnel will be screwed, with devastating consequences throughout the metropolitan region.
While New York and New Jersey committed to fund half of the $13 billion cost last year, the federal government later rescinded its offer to split the cost. An environmental assessment, which was supposed to be completed in March, is still under review, federal officials said on Thursday. The president has repeatedly moved to block federal funding of the project, and reportedly told Senator Chuck Schumer that he'd only support the tunnel in exchange for a border wall with Mexico.
Like most major infrastructure projects, delaying the start of work will only inflate the costs. The $13 billion cost estimated by the federal government last summer is over $4 billion more than the estimated cost of a previous cross-Hudson tunnel blocked by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010. According to one good-government group, the cost of the project increases by about $1 billion each year that it's delayed.
In the meantime, the tunnel—its damaged cables, corroded bolts, punctured walls, falling cement, and "ambient leaking"—will continue to deteriorate.
"What's really going on inside the tunnels is a toxic stew," explained Rich Cotton, head of the Port Authority. "We're just gambling with the transportation lifeblood of the region."
Additional reporting by Stephen Nessen.