$30B Gateway Tunnel project is ‘a fundamentally local transit asset,’ DOT official says

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A federal official in Bayonne last week said that the model used to fund a new ferry operation between the Peninsula City and Manhattan may be the best model to use when trying to fund the $30 billion Gateway Tunnel project. 

The biggest and most needy infrastructure project in the entire metropolitan area that still isn’t completely funded with federal dollars is the Gateway Tunnel.

Gateway calls for two, double-tracked tunnels underneath the Hudson River between North Bergen and Manhattan to replace the beleaguered 107-year old, two-track tunnel.

However, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at a Congressional hearing in March that “New Jersey and New York need to have skin in the game” (h/t The Hill).

Matt Kopko, a special advisor to Chao who unsuccessfully ran for the 31st Legislative District Assembly seat as a Republican in 2015, said that the model utilized between Bayonne and the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the anticipated ferry service should be applied to the Gateway Tunnel.

“In terms of Gateway, to be frank, part of why we’re here to celebrate in Bayonne is that a lot of people in the ferry application process were only offering 20 percent of their own money, while Bayonne offered 60 percent,” Kopko explained.

“Those are the kinds of things that we’d love to see and I think New Jersey and New York should look to that kind of leadership to make progress on Gateway.”

We followed up to ask if the President Donald Trump (R) administration expects then for the two states to pay for the lion’s share of the project’s costs.

“Quick numbers for you: nine out of every 10 riders that go under the Hudson River Tunnel are local New Jersey Transit riders, so it’s a fundamentally local transit asset. We are looking for that type of responsible federal-local partnership and we are working with New York and New Jersey to figure out how to make progress on Gateway,” Kopko continued.

We then asked if both states are amenable to that potential arrangement.

“You’ll have to ask Governor Murphy and Governor Cuomo,” Kopko concluded.

Murphy and Cuomo’s offices did not respond to inquiries seeking comment.

The Gateway Tunnel project to date has received some federal money for preliminary engineering and environmental-related work.

For example, the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that passed in March allocates $540 million towards early construction activities.

Additionally, construction of a new $1.5 billion Portal Bridge North over the Hackensack River broke ground last October.