With federal infrastructure go-ahead, $11.6 billion Gateway Tunnel construction could start in 2023

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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)

Federal financing to build the $11.6 billion Gateway rail tunnel under the Hudson River could be in place by the end of 2022, with construction possibly starting 2023, said officials of the bistate agency that would build the project.

“It’s been an incredible few months and a productive year with the Biden administration moving it forward,” NJ.com quoted Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Gateway Development Corporation (GDC) co-chairwoman, as saying. “We are looking to enter into engineering next year and hope to get a (federal) full funding grant by December and a summer of 2023 start.”

She made the remarks after a Nov. 16 meeting of the GDC where officials outlined various federal grant sources made available by the Biden administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed on Nov. 15.

Costs for the project include $9.8 billion for new tunnel construction and $1.8 billion to rehabilitate the old tunnels, for a $11.6 billion total.

The work is expected to be completed in 2035, said GDC interim executive director Frank Sacr.

The project to augment and rehailitate the two 110-year old tunnels received enviornmental approvals in May.

However, plans for a “Penn South” annex at Penn Station to allow more NJ Transit trains to give passengers a one-seat ride to New York would be deferred to a later stage.

There are still some hurdles before construction can begin. For one, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) needs to increase the project’s ranking — placed low under the Trump administration — to qualify for federal grants.

“We’re under review. We hope it will come next year,” Grewal-Virk said. “We have a great working relationship with the FTA and we’re in constant communication and answering any questions they have.”

As well, loans for New Jersey and New York’s share of the project cost need to be sought and approved. However, program changes mean these loans can be paid off over 75 rather than 35 years, onsidering the lifespan of major railroad infrastructure projects.

Scarr said a “letter of interest” to start the application process for an estimated $6 billion in infrastructure loans is being prepared and could be submitted in the next couple of months, Sacr said.

The annex to Penn Station will be on hold until after the tunnel is built, NJ.com reported. “It was part of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Empire Station Plan to modernize Penn, but was put off under a slimed down plan announced by current Gov. Kathy Hochul on Nov. 3.”

GDC officials said Penn South has “always” been part of the larger Gateway plan to expand train capacity, despite it being put off.

The three agencies that use Penn Station — NJ Transit, Amtrak and New York’s MTA — are still working on a possible station expansion plan and renovation, NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said. “Penn Station is part of it, but we have to get the tunnel first,” Corbett said.

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