Critical NYC train tunnel project gets green light for federal funding after delays

May 28, 2021

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After years at a standstill, a project that will add new tunnels connecting New Jersey and Manhattan — and also fix the existing tunnel — has been approved for federal funding.

On May 28, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) said in a tweet that the initiative, known as the Hudson Tunnel Project, “will advance toward final design and construction” as part of a larger rail investment program called Gateway.

(Screenshot courtesy Gateway program)

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The existing North River Tunnel with two tracks is more than a century old and was badly damaged in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy. It runs under the Hudson River, and is owned by Amtrak and is also used by NJ Transit’s commuter trains.

According to the USDOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the tunnel is currently safe, but it requires ongoing maintenance in order to keep it that way. The $11.6 billion project will provide for the construction of a new two-track tunnel (to be called the Hudson River Tunnel) that will allow service to continue at current levels while the deteriorating tunnel is renovated. Each track is in a different tube under the river.

The project has been delayed for years. Back in 2010 then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed the project, then called ARC. He later claimed he made a deal with former President Trump to get the new tunnel built, but the former president never did allow it to be funded. That’s changed now under President Biden.

The funding for the project would likely come from the massive infrastructure bill that President Biden has proposed and is currently working its way through Congress.

The existing North River Tunnel, which runs under the Hudson River, was built in 1910, making it more than 110 years old. It is in desperate need of renovations following flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Related: President Biden’s infrastructure plan

“The Hudson Tunnel Project will rehabilitate the North River Tunnel without disrupting existing levels of train service,” the USDOT’s FRA website says, noting that each of the North River Tunnel’s two tubes will need to be closed for a year during their rehabilitation. “…in order to avoid unacceptable reductions in weekday service, the project first includes construction of a new tunnel with two new rail tubes … that can maintain the existing level of train service while the damaged tubes in the North River Tunnel are taken out of service, one at a time….”

Under the project’s original plan, the federal government would cover half of the cost, with the states of New York and New Jersey splitting the remaining half.

The Hudson Tunnel Project, which stalled for five years, has been approved for federal funding. The project will construct a new tunnel that will allow continuation of service when the existing tunnel undergoes extensive repairs. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Related: U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg interview with the Points Guy

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) train route connects eight states and Washington, D.C. Although the route’s New-York-to-New-Jersey section isn’t one of the most scenic, it’s essential, with the FRA claiming that emergency fixes to the existing North River Tunnel can affect service for the roughly 200,000 passengers who use the trains every day.

Related: President Biden sells his plans for infrastructure

You can learn more on the Hudson Tunnel Project’s website and Amtrak’s website. You can also check out some of Amtrak’s fun facts about the existing tunnel.

At an event celebrating Amtrak’s 50th anniversary last month, President Biden said, “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position Amtrak — and rail in general — to play a central role in our transportation and economic future. To make the investments that can help get America back on track. No pun intended.”

Featured photo by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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