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Christie, Cuomo ask Obama to pay for half of Hudson River rail tunnel

In a surprise move that may help build a new train tunnel across the Hudson River before the existing tunnel fails, Governor Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked President Obama to have the federal government cover half of the project’s estimated $20 billion cost, plus potentially billions more in federal loans that the states eventually would repay.

The joint letter, released Tuesday, came as a surprise, a source close to the negotiations said, because of comments by Cuomo in August that he would not commit New York State tax money to help pay for the project. “It’s not my tunnel!” Cuomo said at a news conference on Aug. 10. On Tuesday, Cuomo said, “I am fighting for my state, and my state needs this tunnel.”

Christie, a Republican seeking his party’s presidential nomination, and Cuomo, a Democrat, now join members of Congress from both states and both political parties, and transportation experts in support of the project. But while many appeared willing to build the rail tunnel, the sticking point was who would pay for it. Federal officials and members of Congress had been waiting for word from the states on a plan.

“We will engage with local officials immediately to initiate the work necessary to assign more reliable cost figures and eligibility for federal grants within existing programs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We will work towards the goal of an equitable split between the states and the federal government using our existing grant and financing programs and whatever new resources can be provided by Congress. In the meantime, with the states’ active participation, we will work together to expedite the environmental permitting process immediately.”

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