New York and New Jersey officials signed a formal agreement to share costs for the long-stalled $14.2 billion Gateway reconstruction project — an indication the project could finally be inching forward, yet again.
The keystone transit project, which aims to revamp and expand the vital commuter rail and Amtrak lines between New York and New Jersey – has been subject to years of delays spurred by political infighting between states and with the federal government. The 10-mile stretch of commuter railway is one of the busiest in the country, with more than 200,000 riders on around 450 Amtrak and NJTransit trains passing through each day.
In dual press releases sent out on Friday and Tuesday, New York and New Jersey Governors Kathy Hochul and Phil Murphy sought to assuage riders that the project was in fact moving forward, for real this time.
“Today’s announcement is a critical step forward in turning this vision into reality,” Hochul said in a release. Murphy called the memorandum a “pivotal milestone toward the completion of the most significant transportation project not just in New Jersey, but in the entire United States.”
In the memorandum, the states agreed to split the cost for the first phase of the project, which calls for the reconstruction of the Portal North Bridge, at an even cost of $386.2 million per state. The centennial bridge is a regular pain point for commuters, as it often gets stuck open, triggering a notorious bottleneck. Federal funding will cover approximately 60% of the total cost of the $1.9 billion bridge.
The Port Authority has allocated $2.7 billion for the entirety of Phase One of the project.
Ultimately, the states and federal government will rehab the existing Hudson River tunnel that was damaged extensively during Hurricane Sandy and build an additional tunnel to accommodate more trains.
If the announcement strikes a familiar tone, it should. The federal government and New York and New Jersey came to a tentative agreement for the project in 2015, but former governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, who had quashed a previous tunnel plan to avoid raising the state’s gas tax, feuded over how to split the costs.
They finally agreed on a payment scheme in 2017, but the project stalled further under former President Donald Trump. When President Joe Biden was elected, the project appeared to be on track once again, but then Cuomo — who was fond of weighing in on infrastructure engineering issues — began suggesting the original construction plan may be too costly and offered an alternative. He was subsequently distracted by a series of scandals, including multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and had to resign.
The deal between Hochul and Murphy indicates the project can once again proceed and construction on the bridge is expected to begin this year.