There is more (Al Sullivan — August 20) concerning the proposed Gateway Tunnel project which needs to be aired. Release of the Federal Rail Road Administration draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway Tunnel confirms continuing increases in total project cost. The Gateway Tunnel would provide additional tracks for both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit connecting New Jersey to Penn Station. Two years ago, the estimated cost grew by $3.9 billion from $20 billion to $23.9 billion, today; the new cost estimate has grown another $5.2 billion from $23.9 billion to $29.1 billion. This most recent increase is based on the estimated cost for both the new tunnel and rehabilitated old tunnel portions of the overall project which has grown from $8.7 billion to $12.9 billion.
This news follows United States Department of Transportation withdraw from formal membership in the Gateway Development Corporation board. President Trump’s proposed new budget confirms that there is no legal federal commitment to fund the Gateway Tunnel project. All the Department of Transportation provided to the Gateway Development Corporation in June 2016 was to grant permission to the Project Development Phase of the Federal Transit Administration New Starts Program.
This is just the first step of a long multiyear process.
Recent news that the Gateway Development Corporation is looking for private developers to help pay for the $29.1 billion new Hudson River Gateway Tunnel as part of a joint public/private partnership is no surprise. It confirms that the proposed three ways federal/ New Jersey/New York $29.1 billion funding package is primarily verbal commitments and wishful thinking. Two years later it is still not real. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey allocation of $2.7 billion within the approved $32 billion 2017 – 2026 ten year capital plan to help finance the Gateway Tunnel is just initial seed money.
These dollars will be used toward debt service payments against a possible future federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan to the Gateway Development Corporation for this project. It has yet to be approved and will have to be paid back. Without real financial resources from not only Washington ($14.6 billion), but also New York ($7.3 billion) and New Jersey ($7.3 billion), how will the Gateway Tunnel be paid for? A project can’t be financed by just borrowing alone.
Transit riders may never see the Gateway Tunnel completed in their lifetime.