The budget President Trump signed late last week includes about a half billion dollars that may go to a tunnel project linking New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River – a project Trump opposes – though it also might not.
The spending plan has about $540 million that backers of the project said in press reports could be made available for the “Gateway” project, which would add a new train tunnel and replace a 107-year-old rail bridge across the Hackensack River in New Jersey, both part of the heavily-used Northeast rail corridor that Amtrak uses.
The corridor carries about 800,000 regional commuters every day between Boston and D.C. – Amtrak says it carries more people between D.C. and New York and Boston and New York every day than all the airlines combined. Officials say upgrades are the nation’s most critical infrastructure need right now.
The money in the budget, if it does end up going toward Northeast Corridor upgrades, would only provide a portion of the $30 billion expected to be needed overall for improvements on the corridor, including the tunnel and bridge.
During last minute negotiations on the budget deal late last week, Politico reported that there could be a hitch in the way the funding is structured, because the federal Department of Transportation will have a say over how the $540 million gets spent, and support at DOT for the project isn’t guaranteed. The New York Times also reported that the money being counted as earmarked for the project may not ultimately be made available for it. Both reports noted that DOT Secretary Elaine Chao isn’t a big supporter of the project.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told the Times he was hopeful about the money going toward Gateway because the project was too important not to be paid for. But he wasn’t celebrating, either.
Also worth noting: the project’s biggest backer in Congress, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, hadn’t made a statement on the funding as of Monday morning.
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson was cautiously vague in praising the spending bill.
“Amtrak thanks Congress for recognizing the importance of intercity passenger rail and the Northeast Corridor,” Anderson said in a statement. “The increased NEC capital funding will allow us to address many important needs along the Corridor and we look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation on investing these funds to advance the most critical projects.”
Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday, funding the government through September.
Otherwise, the budget will allow Amtrak to continue other intercity rail service, the (Rochester) Democrat and Chronicle reported.
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