Trump Threatens Government Shutdown if Congress Funds Amtrak Gateway Tunnel

Trump's animus towards using federal funds to replace a century-old, hurricane-damaged rail tunnel under the Hudson River is so strong that he warned Congress he will veto a spending bill they must pass by March 23 to keep the government operating.

2 minute read

March 12, 2018, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Donald Trump

Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

As posted earlier, President Trump had personally asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to not include any federal funds towards Amtrak's $30 billion Gateway Program which includes about $13 billion for replacing the 108-year-old tunnel under the Hudson River, damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The tunnel, consisting of two, single-track, electrified rail tubes, is operating on borrowed time. It provides the only means for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains to access New York's Penn Station, the busiest rail hub in North America.

The Washington Post reporters who broke that story suggested Trump was acting to punish New York's senior U.S. senator, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for having stalled the confirmation of several of Trump's nominees for his administration, including his pick to head the Federal Railroad Administration.

Now we learn that Trump has clearly raised the stakes in his battle with key Congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, on whether or not to provide omnibus funds for what is considered by many experts to be the nation's most crucial rail project as it is vital to the Northeast Corridor, which has Amtrak's busiest and most profitable routes as well as commuter and freight rail.

"The potential veto was first reported by Politico on Thursday, though sources have cautioned to The Hill that the White House’s move may be more of a pressure tactic," report Melanie Zanona and Mallory Shelbourne for The Hill on March 8.

“The administration has been very clear that we don’t think this is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a senior administration official said in a statement. 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) want to pass a $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill before March 23 when the current funding for the government is exhausted. The bill contains at least $900 million for work on the Hudson Tunnel project.

"While it is highly unusual for a Republican president to threaten a veto on a funding bill coming from a GOP-run Congress — and risking a potential government shutdown — Trump is adamant in his opposition to the federal government underwriting the project, sources said," reports Politico on March 8.

“This is all Trump personally,” said a GOP source on Capitol Hill. “He is not going to go for any Gateway [funding].”

Politico suggests additional explanations for Trump's vendetta against Schumer, such as using the Gateway project to get the minority leader's support for funding the Border Wall.

Hat tip to Mass Transit magazine.

Thursday, March 8, 2018 in The Hill

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29 - Streetsblog LA

Street view of 4th Avenue, a commercial street of shops and restaurants through the city center of downtown Seattle, Washington.

Study: Seattle Vision Zero Projects Not Bad for Business

An analysis of seven road safety project sites showed no negative economic impact on surrounding businesses.

February 29 - UW News

Black-and-white photo of street with old black model T and brick building on the corner.

The History of Racial Zoning and Housing Discrimination in the US

More than a century of discriminatory housing policy divided cities and contributed to the racial wealth gap and other social and economic inequities.

February 29 - Urban Land Magazine

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.