NJ’s Democratic Congressional Delegation Writes Biden in Hopes of Completing Gateway Project

Members of the New Jersey Democratic Congressional delegation have written a letter, dated December 16, to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to complete the Gateway Commuter Rail Tunnel project beneath the Hudson River, along with other road and bridge improvement projects, once he is sworn-in on January 20.  Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. is the lead author of the letter.

The trans-Hudson tunnel is needed because the existing rail tunnel for NJ Transit and Amtrak is more than 100 years old and was damaged eight years ago during Superstorm Sandy.

Republicans, including former Governor Chris Christie who scrapped the original tunnel project begun in North Bergen, have long said the project, funded heavily with federal dollars, will cause tax hikes New Jersey residents cannot afford.

The letter and accompanying press release are below:

Rep. Payne, Jr. Wants Biden to Fund and Finish Gateway Program

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. wants President-elect Joe Biden to make the Gateway Program, also known as the Gateway projects, a greater transportation priority in his administration.

The Congressman wrote a letter to President-elect Joe Biden to highlight the importance of the Hudson River Tunnel and Portal North Bridge to commuter traffic between New York and New Jersey as well as travel up and down the East Coast.  The $30 billion Gateway Program would replace the bridge and add a new tunnel under the Hudson River.  The program has lagged in the Trump Administration because it created bureaucratic roadblocks to keep the projects from receiving appropriate federal assistance.

“These two projects are critical to the nation’s infrastructure,” said Congressman Payne, Jr.  “The Trump Administration had four years to provide the support needed to get these projects completed and failed.  I know President-elect Biden understands the importance of modern infrastructure to a successful economy.  That is why I am confident his administration will give the Gateway Program the federal funding and resources necessary to improve transportation throughout the Northeast Corridor.”

Both projects are in desperate need of repair.  For example, Rep. Payne, Jr. wrote that the “existing Hudson River Tunnel is over 110 years old and is decaying rapidly.  Any closure of the tubes in the tunnel for repair will result in catastrophic delays that ripple across our nationwide transportation network and harm economic activity up and down the Northeast Corridor.  It is estimated that just one tube shutting down for a day has the potential to cost $100 million in lost economic activity nationwide.”  The letter was co-signed by nine members of the New Jersey House delegation and the two New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.  The letter is added below.

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December 16, 2020

President-Elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20230

 

Dear President-Elect Biden:

We strongly urge you to prioritize the completion of the Hudson River Tunnel project and the Portal North Bridge project as the key components of the larger Gateway Program.  These projects are the most critical infrastructure projects in the country and are the linchpin to our nation’s rail network.

The existing Hudson River Tunnel is over 110 years old and is decaying rapidly.  Any closure of the tubes in the tunnel for repair will result in catastrophic delays that ripple across our nationwide transportation network and harm economic activity up and down the Northeast Corridor.  It is estimated that just one tube shutting down for a day has the potential to cost $100 million in lost economic activity nationwide.  Sadly, the Trump administration has consistently ignored this looming crisis even though Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars for the project.

The Trump administration has repeatedly rated the Hudson River Tunnel project as Medium-Low in the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program, making it ineligible for federal funding.  Additionally, the current Department of Transportation has had the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) sitting on its desk for approval for the past three years.  We strongly urge you to give the Hudson River Tunnel project the higher rating it deserves to make it eligible for federal funding and to begin the EIS approval process with no further delay.

When transportation ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels, passengers will need efficient and reliable forms of transportation along the northeast corridor.  Now, more than ever, is the time to make substantial investments in the Gateway Program to boost the national economy, create jobs, and ensure that millions of intercity rail passengers and daily commuters have access to modern safe transportation infrastructure.

Again, we respectfully urge you to prioritize the completion of the Hudson River Tunnel and Portal North Bridge projects after you are sworn in.  Thank you in advance for your consideration of our request, and we stand ready to work with you and your administration on these critical projects.

Sincerely,

Donald M. Payne, Jr.    Member of Congress

Robert Menendez     United States Senator

Cory A. Booker       United States Senator

Bonnie Watson Coleman       Member of Congress

Frank Pallone, Jr.   Member of Congress

Donald Norcross    Member of Congress

Tom Malinowski.    Member of Congress

Albio Sires           Member of Congress

Bill Pascrell, Jr.     Member of Congress

Andy Kim     Member of Congress

Mikie Sherrill   Member of Congress

Josh Gottheimer     Member of Congress