U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Hudson County View that the $540 million for the Gateway Tunnel is a milestone for the project during an appearance in Bayonne yesterday.
“This is a win for New Jersey, something we worked on for a long time. We had a president that was threatening to kill the whole thing, but yet working across the aisle on both sides with New Jersey representatives we were able to get a significant investment, the project will move forward,” Booker said after a press conference at the former Military Ocean Terminal.
“But next year we’ll have to go to battle again [to get the additional funding].”
The Gateway Tunnel project is part of a massive infrastructure plan that calls for building two new passenger rail tunnels under the Hudson River that would increase train capacity for both Amtrak and NJ Transit between Newark’s Penn Station and New York’s Penn Station to replace the beleaguered 108-year old tunnel.
The new tunnel entrances on the New Jersey side, as with the current tunnel, would sit in North Bergen.
Before President Barack Obama (D) left office in 2016, his administration signed a memorandum of understanding with New Jersey and New York that the federal government would pay up to half of the approximately $13 billion cost.
But President Donald Trump’s (R) administration has balked at providing the necessary funding, going so far as to threaten no federal funding for the project at all.
But in the recently signed $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds the government through September, about $540 million was included for Gateway.
While it’s a step in the right directoon, the project is still billions of dollars short of the necessary funding.
In fact, the $500 million in funding is just half the amount that U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), who heads the House Appropriations Committee, was requesting.
With all that in mind, Booker said that the next steps, particularly in the next year, are critical.
“The next steps are critical. We have to get back to work next year, which leads us to a voting year in this region. We need to put people in place in the House of Representatives that are going to join Senator [Bob] Menendez and I to make sure that we prioritize the Northeast,” Booker said.
If and when shovels do hit the ground to build the tunnel, it would make Gateway one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects, second only to the construction of the nation’s first high-speed rail system in California.
Booker was enthusiastic when asked if this project would be a big benefit for Hudson County residents looking for manual labor jobs.
“I really appreciate that question because we have to understand that this just isn’t about money for rail but about jobs and economic opportunity for the whole region. This has a double effect – it has an effect first and foremost [for] all the construction and good-paying middle class jobs that will go into a massive project like this,” explained Booker.
“By opening up these arteries and increasing the flow of economic activity in our region it’ll create other jobs and business opportunities for families in Bayonne and all of the counties in Northern New Jersey.”