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Gateway Will Shape the Way NY Moves

As part the right-of-way project, Amtrak demolished and is rebuilding the Long Island Rail Road equipment maintenance shop where the east end of the concrete casing had to be excavated. Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

In an era when infrastructure planning usually involves closing the barn door after the horse has left, and most civil engineering projects go begging for money, it is astonishing that the federal government and private developers have physically preserved a prospective route for the Gateway Project, which is still on the drafting board.

When Gateway opens, it will supplement the existing 105-year-old two-tube tunnel. The new tunnel will also allow for the original tubes to be taken out of service to be overhauled and modernized. “It’s something of a prod to move people forward,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democrat, said. Senator Schumer was credited by Amtrak officials and executives of the Related Companies, which is building Hudson Yards with the Oxford Properties Group, with helping to find the political will and the financial way to take this first step.

A bridge carries 11th Avenue over the Long Island Rail Road yards where the current phase of the right-of-way excavation project is taking place. To support the bridge temporarily, Amtrak and its contractor, Tutor Perini, made use of an enormous steel beam, about 120 feet long and 8 feet tall, that had been fabricated a half-century ago for Interstate 95 in Connecticut. It was no longer needed after reconstruction work on that highway. Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

A trans-Hudson tunnel called ARC, to be used only by New Jersey Transit, was abruptly halted in 2010 by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, who cited its cost. It was to have run along West 34th Street. By then, Related had already spent two years planning Hudson Yards in the belief that a new rail line would run north of its site, not directly beneath it. At that point, it had become clear that Gateway, along West 30th Street, was the only possible trans-Hudson tunnel.

Senator Schumer said Amtrak approached him to say that if the right of way under Hudson Yards were not protected, the whole Gateway project would jeopardized. Mr. Schumer recalled contacting Stephen M. Ross, the chairman of Related, who told him: “I don’t want to stand in the way. But I have deadlines.” Nonetheless, the senator said, Mr. Ross pledged to cooperate with Amtrak in coordinating the complex, simultaneous construction projects.

There was still the matter of finding $185 million, a job that became a bit easier in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy flooded the existing two-tube tunnel under the Hudson, disrupting the lives of about 600,000 New Jersey commuters and intercity travelers for the better part of a week. “One of the few silver linings of Sandy came along,” Senator Schumer said. That was the Federal Transit Administration’s emergency relief account. It provided the money needed to get the Gateway project going, concretely.

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