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"A project to build new Hudson River rail tunnels will get a $70 million boost from Amtrak and the Port Authority for preliminary work, while federal officials agreed to fast track an environmental review to buy time and save money," writes Larry Higgs, commuting reporter for NJ Advance Media for NJ.com.
"This is huge. It is a significant step," said U.S. Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ [ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, which oversees America's rail infrastructure]. "We're farther down the field than I thought we'd be last summer."
Transportation agencies are in a race against time to start the $20 billion Gateway Project before one of two 106-year-old tunnels has to be taken out of service to repair flood damage, which would severely disrupt commuter rail service.
New Jersey Transit commuters and Amtrak patrons got a taste of what awaits when electrical problems cause both tunnels to initially shut down both tunnels last July, causing three days of major delays. As readers may know, electrical problems besieged the much younger metro systems in Washington and the Bay Area. Unlike the latter, the cause of the problem in the Hudson River tunnels is known: "seawater and salt (from Superstorm Sandy in 2012) that inundated the tunnels (and) ate away at concrete bench walls where the signal and power cables are held," notes a July post.
Higgs write that Wednesday's announcement of the $70 million from the two agencies "marks the first major progress on the tunnel project since Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo announced a funding agreement between the states and federal government."
As recent posts in "related" below indicate, there has been much progress since a May 9 summit, organized by the Regional Plan Association and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (summarized here), though this appears to be the first time we've seen the announcement of funding. "Amtrak has directed more than $300 million, mostly from federal sources," to the $20 billion project, notes the Gateway website.
Expedited federal environmental review
"U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the department will commit the necessary resources and take steps to accelerate federal environmental reviews and permitting for the Hudson Tunnel Project," notes the Port Authority's press release.