WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee and mass transit subcommittee, today secured a commitment from President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Transit Administration to work with local stakeholders to move the Gateway Project forward, including the construction of a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. The comments came during his questioning of Deputy FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez, nominated to serve as FTA Administrator, at her confirmation hearing.
“I believe that Gateway is the single most important transportation project in the country, and we have to move quickly to get it done,” Sen. Menendez said. “I appreciate that the President and the Administration have consistently highlighted the importance of Gateway, and the Federal Railroad Administration has already committed to completing the environmental review process by the end of the month. But FTA has a vital role to play here as well.”
The FTA administers the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, the single-largest source of federal funding for large-scale transit capital projects like Gateway, and evaluates transit projects to determine their eligibility for funding.
“I agree that Gateway is a project of national significance. The Hudson Tunnel, which is part of the Gateway Program, is an essential link,” said Fernandez. “If confirmed, I commit to working with the project sponsors as they take all the necessary steps to complete the requirements for receipt of the funding.”
NJ TRANSIT and the FTA recently finalized a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Portal North Bridge project, a key component of Gateway, allowing it to access over $800 million in federal funding primarily through the CIG program. The FTA still must issue a new rating for the project to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River in order for that phase of the Gateway Project to qualify for federal funding. Completion of this project will allow the old tunnels, which were badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy, to be temporarily taken out of service and repaired.
In January, Sen. Menendez met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg prior to his confirmation, in which the Secretary expressed support for Gateway and pledged to end the political interference that has slowed the project.
After four years of arbitrary delays, unsubstantiated rating cuts and other roadblocks put up during the Trump Administration, the Full Funding Grant Agreement allows construction of a new Portal North Bridge to move forward. The 110-year-old, antiquated, swing-style span over the Hackensack River in Kearny has long been considered the linchpin of the entire Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the source of major service disruptions for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT riders, and carries an average 450 trains and 200,000 passengers each day.
Should the existing Hudson River tunnels need to be taken out of service without a replacement in place, Amtrak estimates that a shutdown of the NEC could cost the economy nearly $100 million in transportation-related impacts and productivity losses per day.