Trump Attempts to Deny Funding for Hudson River Rail Tunnel Project

President Trump is going out of his way to ensure that the Hudson River Tunnel and other projects in the Amtrak Gateway Program don't receive federal funding in the next omnibus spending bill Congress must approve by March 23 to avoid a shutdown.
March 5, 2018, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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First, the U.S. Department of Transportation cast doubt on New York and New Jersey's financing plans to use federal loans to pay their share (along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) of the Gateway Project, and even rejected the financial plan [pdf] itself. Then the Federal Transportation Administration downrated the program, scoring two of the projects in their second-lowest priority category. And now Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post report on March 2 what the President did in an effort to kill the project.

 "President Trump is pushing congressional Republicans not to fund a crucial infrastructure project — a long-delayed plan to build a new rail tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey — setting up a confrontation that could complicate passage of a massive government spending bill this month," report DeBonis and Dawsey.

Trump personally appealed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) this week to target federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project [sic] which would construct a tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to supplement two aging tubes that are at risk of failing in the coming years.

Amtrak's Gateway Program website shows only three components of the $30 billion program: the Hudson Tunnel ProjectPortal Bridge Replacement Project, and Hudson Yard Right-of-Way Preservation Project. Wikipedia shows all of them, though it lists a price tag of $20 billion.

[A]ccording to four officials familiar with the discussions, Trump has taken a personal interest in making sure no federal dollars flow to a project that is considered critical to his hometown’s long-term economic prosperity.

DeBonis and Dawsey suggest the sabotage may be political retribution for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) who he blames for having stalled confirmation of "several Trump nominees, including his pick to head the Federal Railroad Administration, to protest the administration’s failure to support the [Gateway Program]."

However, it's not clear that Congress will abide by the President's wishes. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), "represents thousands of suburban constituents who rely on the Hudson River rail tunnels for their daily commutes to and from Manhattan." Frelinghuysen is also retiring this year. 

Congressional appropriators ... are looking to spend at least $950 million in federal funds on the Gateway project in the coming omnibus spending bill. Lawmakers are expected to pass the legislation ahead of a March 23 government shutdown deadline.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), expressed strong support for the project. However, the projects also face opposition from other GOP congress members, and most notably, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Michael D. Shear and Patrick Mcgeehan of The New York Times also report on March 2 on the president's attempt to deny funding for the critical rail infrastructure program.

Hat tip to Mark Boshnack.

Full Story:
Published on Friday, March 2, 2018 in The Washington Post
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