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Officials Want to Accelerate New Hudson River Tunnel Plans

Over the last few months, momentum has been growing for a new trans-Hudson River train tunnel, and it seems like things are actually going to start happening. The Times reports that federal transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said officials are "taking important initial steps to accelerate long-stalled plans" in order to "move as quickly as possible on preliminary work because of the deteriorating condition of the current tunnel."

The steps include shortening the timeline for approving permits and discussing financing options with the Port Authority. The Times says this is "the most substantive movement on the project in years." However, a new tunnel is still many years away—a timeline outlined on Amtrak's Gateway website estimates a 2028 completion date, assuming adequate funding— and a lot of questions and concerns remain.

The New Jersey Transit will likely lead an environmental study (but this still needs to be approved by the board), which would take two to three years (!) to complete. The whole proposal, called the Gateway Project, includes an expanded Penn Station and a replacement of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, in addition to the tunnel. In other words, this is a big friggin' project.

The Port Authority is supposed to oversee the whole shebang, which is a concern in and of itself as the agency hasn't exactly proved itself to be a well-run machine. The Times certainly seems skeptical: How would the states pay for their share when leaders are already struggling to fund existing infrastructure plans? Could Congress, already wracked by leadership questions, be persuaded to provide significant federal funding? And would the Port Authority, shadowed by scandal and a continuing federal investigation, be the best agency to oversee one of the biggest construction projects in the country?

At one point, Senator Chuck Schumer proposed creating a nonprofit development corporation to oversee the project, but Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo think that the Port Authority should lead the way. The Port Authority is also working to replace its hellhole of a bus terminal, replace the hellhole that is LaGuardia Airport, and extend the PATH train to Newark Airport. What's one more thing, really?

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