New Proposals to Break the Gateway Logjam


In the last week, political leaders in New York and New Jersey advanced legislative proposals to break the political logjam holding back Amtrak’s Gateway initiative, the nation’s most important infrastructure project. Last week, Representatives Peter King and Josh Gottheimer proposed legislation that would require the Federal Government to issue a “doomsday plan” in the event the Hudson River tunnel would need to be shutdown for any length of time.

Then, on Monday, Senator Schumer announced plans to introduce legislation would reimburse states for a portion of their construction costs on projects that are in the federal funding pipeline but are being held up by the Trump administration.  Senator Schumer’s legislation could apply to both the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel projects that are currently stalled by the Federal Government.

These actions were spurred by the release of RPA’s A Preventable Crisis: The Economic and Human Costs of a Human Costs of a Hudson River Tunnel Shutdown. Prepared with the assistance of ARUP and other partners, the report spells out what would happen if we lost one of the two passenger rail tracks under the Hudson River. Its findings are the results of a rigorous analysis to quantify both the economic and human costs of taking the tubes of the existing tunnel out of service for repairs before a new tunnel is built. The report’s major findings include:

  • Delay in funding and approvals for the Gateway projects make it increasingly likely each tube of the 110-year-old tunnel will need to be taken out of service to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy before a new tunnel is built to maintain existing service.
  • A partial shutdown could result in a 75% reduction in capacity, putting enormous stress on the already overburdened transportation network in the Northeast, from interstate highways to international airports.
  • The shutdown would cost the national economy $16 billion over four years, with wage value of added commuting time alone equivalent to the salaries of 33,000 jobs.
  • Federal, state and local governments would lose $7 billion in tax revenue.
  • Nearly half a million people would have longer, less reliable commutes, including 38,000 New Jersey Transit riders who would have to find other ways to get to work, 170,000 PATH and bus riders who would experience more crowding and delays, and 245,000 drivers, nearly half of whom don’t even drive into Manhattan.
  • Displaced Amtrak riders would further crowd airports, increasing peak period air fares between Washington and New York City by as much as 65%.
  • Truck delays would cost the Northeast economy over $1 billion.
  • Home owners, including 40% of all homeowners in New Jersey, would see their property values dip by $22 billion.
  • 38,000 additional car crashes and more air pollution could result in 90-100 premature deaths.

Even these estimates do not include several costs that couldn’t be quantified, including losses in commercial property value, the value of buffer time that people would need to build into their commutes, the health and productivity impacts of increased mental and physical stress, and the impact on both national and regional economic competitiveness. Nor does it calculate the enormous upside benefits of a new tunnel that would vastly improve both commuter and intercity travel and support the sustainable growth in jobs throughout the Northeast for decades to come.

We are pleased to see the representatives from New York and New Jersey acknowledging the findings in our report, taking them to heart and, most importantly, taking action to avoid this preventable crisis. As Republican Congressman Peter King eloquently put it, “Either they put up or shut up. Either they come up with a plan to show how they’re going to work around this or they get started with this project, release the money and stop slow-walking it.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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