Some local residents irate over potential impact of $12.9B Hudson Tunnel Project

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At least a dozen Hudson County residents spoke out against the $12.9 billion Hudson Tunnel Project yesterday at a public hearing at Union City High School, citing air pollution, overnight construction and a lack of transparency with the planning process as concerns.

After a brief presentation, Weehawken 1st Ward Councilwoman Carmela Silvestri-Ehret offered a counter proposal that would have the air shaft portion of the tunnel built underneath an industrial area of Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, as opposed to the Hoboken-Weehawken border.

“Where have many residences here in this area. We have more than 75,000 vehicles that come through Weehawken to go through the Lincoln Tunnel, to go east,” Silvestri-Ehret showed on a diagram.

“We get to this site, we notice that, where you’re starting – which is on the other side of Tonnelle Avenue, on the west side – you have, New Jersey Transit has quite a bit of property there … it’s over 800,000 square feet.”

The project is a joint effort between NJ Transit and the Federal Railroad Administration, who say that the reliability of the North River Tunnel has been compromised ever since Superstorm Sandy.

The two agencies recently prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the basis of the public hearings, but many in attendance seemed unimpressed with what they read.

Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher stated that construction would likely have to be done overnight, causing major traffic and quality of life issues, and also suggested linking the project with the Light Rail.

“The reality is that all the work that needs to be done to avoid the traffic impact needs to be done overnight and my guess is that is not going to be acceptable to the people in The Shades area that live adjacent to it,” began Fisher, who also supported the idea of moving the air shaft to North Bergen.

“When you actually look on a map and see where all the transportation lines cross, there’s a real opportunity to link this train tunnel with the Light Rail. And before Weehawken people have a heart attack, I don’t actually see it happening on the Weehawken side, but the north end of Hoboken.”

Chris von der Lieth, who lives in The Shades portion of Weehawken, expressed concern that the study has been granted an “air quality conformity exemption,” despite most of the construction taking place in a residential neighborhood.

Anna Bolcar, another Weehawken resident and the youngest speaker of the evening, made note that air pollution could be a serious concern given that a park is in close proximity to the project.

” … There’s a whole bunch of kids who want to be playing in it, but because of the pollution in the air, they would always have to stay inside and maybe they would like … I don’t know, but it’s gonna be very hard for kids,” she said.

Anna’s father, Stephen, added that it would be “unethical” and “immoral” not to do some sort of air pollution study.

“As everything gets stirred up, that stuff is going to go up in the air, and people are going to breath it. As Chris mentioned, children especially, and the senior citizens, they’re gonna be affected the most,” he explained.

“Maybe I won’t die now, 10 years, 15 years I have cancer or some other cancer: I don’t know. But to not do a study, I just think it’s unethical, it’s immoral and it should be done.”

A select few attendees were in favor of the project though, such as Hudson County Sierra Club Chair Dave “Ace” Case.

“I just want to go on the record that both the Hudson group and the statewide chapter [of the Sierra Club] are in favor of the Hudson Tunnel Project. It’s been very interesting to hear the opposition from the local residents,” Case stated.

“I guess the balance that has to be drawn is between the disruption it’s gonna cause against, I might become very unpopular here, but the instant disruption that one of the North Hudson tunnels going down would cause.”

The Access to the Region’s Core, better known by the acronym ARC, Tunnel was the original commuter rail project that would connect Secaucus to Manhattan, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) cancelled the project in October 2010 after $600 million had been invested (h/t The Record).

Although several residents called for the public comment period to be extended, they are currently due by Monday, August 21st and can be submitted via the following methods:

    • The project website: www.hudsontunnelproject.com/contact.html
    • Email: comment@hudsontunnelproject.com
    • U.S. mail to the following address:

HUDSON TUNNEL PROJECT
c/o Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc.
11 Hanover Square, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10005

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