By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Two U.S. agencies on Friday said a planned $11.6 billion project to reconstruct and add a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey reached two key milestones that will allow it to advance and receive federal funding.
The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration jointly issued the final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the Hudson Tunnel Project, key steps for the project that is a crucial economic link in the U.S. Northeast.
“This is a big step for the Northeast, and for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs, and businesses,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
Approximately 450 trains every weekday use the Hudson Tunnel and, before COVID-19, approximately 200,000 daily passenger trips took place.
The Hudson Tunnel Project is one component of the Gateway Program, a major project to overhaul much of the aging rail infrastructure in the New York City area.
In April, U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak asked Congress for $16 billion for Gateway, including $6.7 billion over five years for the Hudson Tunnel project. The project would result in four modern tubes connecting New Jersey to New York Penn Station in Manhattan.
Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said the project will improve reliability in the important Northeast Corridor, “positively impacting the lives of thousands of daily commuters and intercity passengers.”
The New York City-area rail tunnel, which opened in 1910, was damaged in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy flooded parts of the city.
The department noted no federal funding has been dedicated for the Hudson Tunnel project to date. Completion of these two steps is a prerequisite for either agency to direct future federal funding to advance this project through pre-construction activities such as engineering, final design development, property acquisition and construction.
The Hudson Tunnel project includes building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and rehabilitating the existing tunnel, known as the North River Tunnel, once the new tunnel is complete.
When rehabilitation is complete, both tunnels would provide redundant capacity and increased operational flexibility for both Amtrak and NJ Transit.
President Joe Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure spending that includes $39 billion for modernizing the northeast rail corridor.
In total, Amtrak is seeking $31 billion from Congress over five years to overhaul the Northeast Corridor, the Boston to Washington, D.C., corridor that is the busiest passenger rail route in the country.
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Robert Birsel and David Gregorio)