Biden Kick-Starting Gateway Tunnel With $292M Grant

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President Joseph Biden will kick-start New York’s long-delayed Gateway tunnel project, also known as the Hudson River Tunnel, with a $292 million grant, Biden announced in New York on Tuesday.

The funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law get the wheels turning on the project, expected to save the region from the economic impacts of a potential failure of the existing century-old tunnels owned by Amtrak and also used by New Jersey Transit.

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The 10-mile stretch of tunnel will connect the Palisades in New Jersey to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan while completing structural concrete work beneath Hudson Yards, where part of the thoroughfare will run. Work is currently underway to replace the Portal Bridge, built in 1910 to carry railroad cars over the Hackensack River in New Jersey, with a new Portal North Bridge.

This $292 million investment will go primarily toward the concrete “casing” element of the project beneath Hudson Yards to provide structural support for the “box tunnel,” altogether a $600 million project in itself, according to the Biden administration.

Overall, the tunnel project is expected to cost a total of $16.1 billion, but will provide additional reliability to some 2,200 trains running along the Northeast Corridor every day. A shutdown could cost the economy $100 million per day, according to the Biden administration.

“The current Hudson River rail tunnel can be a major choke point,” Biden, who earned the nickname “Amtrak” Joe for his love of trains, said during a Tuesday announcement at the West Side Rail Yard in Manhattan. “This tunnel opened for business 113 years ago, and the structure is literally deteriorating. The roof is leaking, the floor is sinking, plus was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Today over 10 years later, there’s still remnants of seawater eating away at the concrete, the steel and the electrical components within the tunnel.”

To boot, there are an average of 12,000 minutes in delays a year due to the current state of the tunnels, which will need to be rehabbed before 2038. After they are rehabilitated, however, there will be expanded train capacity, according to Biden.

With Biden for the announcement was a full cast of elected officials, from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who leaned heavily on the delays of the past, pointing the finger at Republican politicians such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former President Donald Trump in blocking efforts for replacement routes.

“This is the first  and necessary starting point of Gateway. But it’s also one of the hardest parts of Gateway because it cuts through solid Manhattan bedrock to form the entry point of the two underwater rail tunnels that are the centerpiece of the project,” Schumer said at the podium at the announcement. “For four years, the former president was shoveling you know what. And now we’re going to put real shovels in the ground wielded by real American workers.”

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.