A US$11 billion rail tunnel in New York has received federal environmental approval. The Department of Transportation announced that the new Hudson River tunnel can now be constructed to connect New York and New Jersey and design and engineering work can go as planned. Following approval, federal grants for the project are also now expected to be distributed smoothly once construction begins. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, there are enough funds in President Biden’s US$2.3 trillion infrastructure plan that could fund the project. It would direct US$85 billion to update and replace subway cars and repair aging tracks and stations and US$25 of those funds would also go to expanding bus routes and rail lines.
The new Hudson River Tunnel is part of a broader Gateway project to expand rail capacity in the New York region, dates back roughly 10 years with environmental studies being completed three years ago. Andrew Cuomo, the New York Governor has alleged the Trump administration for delaying approval for political reasons, a claim Trump denied. The existing tunnel is more than 110 years old and prone to problems and delays due to aging signals, crumbling walls, and old wiring. Saltwater intrusion from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 accelerated the tunnel’s deterioration. This led Amtrak, the company that owns the tunnel to begin costly repairs for the tunnel to continue being used.
Under the Gateway project, the new tunnel would be built alongside the existing tunnel which once completed, would be taken out of service for a complete overhaul which is expected to take at least two years to be completed. A plan to add tracks in New York’s Penn Station to accommodate even more trains when both tunnels are in service is in the early stages. “This is a big step for the Northeast, and for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs, and businesses,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.