Gateway rail tunnel project costs could reach $13 billion: NYBC says it is the nation’s most important planned infrastructure project

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gateway hudson tunnel
A new Hudson River tunnel will be built so the existing North River Tunnel (pictured here) can be repaired. (Amtrack image)

The cost to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and repair the existing one could reach nearly $13 billion — a steep increase over an earlier estimate of $7.7 billion, according to a report released on July 6.

The New York Building Congress (NYBC) describes the overall Gateway project as “the single most important infrastructure project in the country,” and has asked stakeholders to come together with a financing plan for the initiative.

The New York Times says transit officials are proceeding with project planning to improve a critical link between New York and New Jersey. The tunnel proposal is considered one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country, but its fate is unclear under the Trump administration.

The Hudson Tunnel Project report, by the Federal Railroad Administration and New Jersey Transit, evaluated the plan’s environmental and economic impacts. The study was a major step before detailed design work and construction could begin, said John D. Porcari, the interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, which was created to oversee the project.

“As of today, the tunnel is moving rapidly toward construction,” Porcari said at a news conference.

Construction of a new tunnel could begin by fall 2019, and the it could open in spring 2026, according to the report, which estimated the cost of the new tunnel at $11.1 billion. Rehabilitating the existing tunnel could cost $1.8 billion, the report said.

The century-old tunnel that Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains now use to cross the Hudson was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and has become increasingly unreliable, the New York Times says. Local officials worry that the tunnel will continue to deteriorate, requiring major repairs that would wreak havoc on commuting in the region.

The Hudson tunnel plan is part of a broader series of upgrades known as the Gateway program. With higher costs projected for the tunnels, the full slate of improvements could rise to $29.1 billion, from an earlier estimate by Amtrak of $23.9 billion.

The broader Gateway program includes replacing the Portal Bridge, a century-old structure in New Jersey that frequently causes delays, and expanding Penn Station to the south with new tracks. The expansion — a key component of plans to improve service at the overburdened transit hub — would not be completed until at least 2030 and could cost more than $5.9 billion, according to Amtrak, which owns the station.

The Times reports that officials say they will hold several public hearings to solicit feedback about the tunnel proposal from the public. The construction could affect marshes in the Meadowlands in New Jersey and bird and fish populations in the area, among other environmental concerns.

“By completing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway Program and continuing with an expedited review process, multiple Federal agencies have shown a strong commitment to this project, which has an unparalleled importance to the metropolitan region and the overall economy,” said NYBC president and CEO Carlo A. Scissura.

“The Building Congress believes that Gateway is the single most important infrastructure project in the country,” Scissura said in a statement. “The program will double train capacity under the Hudson River, which along with other capacity and service improvements, will directly benefit thousands of commuters, businesses and tourists throughout New York, New Jersey and the entire Northeast corridor. We urge each stakeholder at the local, state and federal levels to come together on a financing plan that would allow for construction to begin as soon as the environmental review process is complete.”