The Trump administration has upgraded the Portal North Bridge replacement project, making the groundbreaking of a new rail bridge across the Hackensack River more likely, but has not moved forward on funding a new cross-Hudson tunnel.
That’s good news for Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey congressional delegation that made views the bridge as vital to NJ Transit and Amtrak as it seeks to move commuters back and forth to New York.
The Federal Transit Administration has moved the project rating from Medium-Low to Medium-High in the Capital Investment Program.
New Jersey and the bi-state Gateway Program Development Corporation is seeking nearly $1.6 billion in funding from the federal government.
The decision could boost Murphy’s argument that he’s helping to fix mass transit nightmares left behind by his predecessor.
In 2010, then-Gov. Chris Christie cancelled the ARC tunnel project in order to free up funding for state transportation needs. The decade-long tunnel construction would be completed down.
It will also help the re-election prospects of North Jersey House members Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker have made federal funding of New Jersey transportation infrastructure a major priority, as have Reps. Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and Donald Payne (D-Newark).
The FTA claims the project sponsors refused to take direction from the department on how to fix the their application, suggesting that ignoring their input on unrealistic funding assumptions is the reason why the Hudson Tunnel is ineligible to receive federal funding.
This story was updated at 12:34 PM on February 11
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY
“From day one, my administration has worked closely with our congressional delegation and Secretary Chao’s team to enhance this critical project that cannot wait another day — we have committed the entirety of New Jersey’s local share in the form of $600 million in EDA bonds, completed critical early construction work and developed shovel-ready plans for major construction. Today’s decision by USDOT puts us one step closer toward our ultimate goal: replacing this unreliable, century-old bridge and reducing delays for NJ TRANSIT customers. New Jersey remains ready and willing to work cooperatively as a full partner to ensure that this project, which affects the commutes of tens of thousands of our residents daily, is completed as expeditiously as possible.”
U.S. SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ
“This is welcomed and long overdue news for New Jersey commuters. The 109-year-old, oft-malfunctioning Portal North Bridge is the lynchpin of the Northeast Corridor and must be replaced without further delay. This new rating allows this project to move into the engineering phase and puts it on track to receive federal funding.
“Make no mistake about it, this is the most significant step forward for the Gateway Program since this Administration took office. It is a goal that I have worked towards for years in my role as the Ranking Member on the Senate’s transit subcommittee, and is a testament to the dedication of stakeholders like NJ Transit and Amtrak, Governor Murphy, Senator Booker, and the entire Congressional delegation. Together, we worked to overcome unprecedented political opposition to advance a significant piece of the nation’s most critical infrastructure project that will help us meet the needs of our commuters and reinforce the backbone of the Northeast Corridor. However, our work is far from over.
“As I have said repeatedly, we can get Gateway done faster and cheaper with President Trump fully onboard. While it is my hope that the advancement of Portal Bridge represents a recognition by the Trump Administration that Gateway is a project of national significance, the continued low ratings for the Hudson River tunnels show that we must remain vigilant and continue to hold this Administration’s feet to the fire.
“I will not stop fighting until Gateway is fully completed. It is time to end the delays and build a 21st century transportation network that ensures the continued economic vitality of our state, region and nation.”
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER
“With this long-deserved rating for the Portal Bridge, North Jersey will finally be able to begin moving forward with the most important infrastructure project in our country. Jersey has held up our end of the bargain, and now I’m hopeful that the federal government will hold up theirs. Thousands of workers already face a grueling commute, with far too many delays, on an outdated system of tunnels and bridges. We now need the federal government to update their rating on the Gateway plan to replace the century-old tunnels beneath the Hudson River, so this part of the project can move forward too. We know that infrastructure investment gives one of the best returns on investment of anything. We know that commuters depend on these tunnels to get to work, so they can provide for their families. We know that if one of the tunnels were to crumble, it would cost the regional economy $100 million a day. Here in the greatest country in the world, we all have a responsibility, and the ability, to do whatever we can, at all levels of government to fix this tunnel and our crumbling infrastructure. We cannot afford to delay a day longer.”
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI
“Since coming to Congress, I have had no higher priority than delivering the Portal North Bridge for my constituents. Relentless pressure from Congress has produced a major win for New Jersey commuters and I look forward to seeing work started soon.”
U.S. SENATOR CORY BOOKER
“Today marks an important step forward in replacing the century-old portal bridge — a critical part of the Northeast Corridor line upon which tens of thousands of daily commuters rely. Delays caused by aging infrastructure like the Portal Bridge not only keep families apart, but they threaten the economic strength of our entire region.
“Even with today’s announcement on Portal Bridge there remains a long road ahead, and we must keep up the fight. We all know the critical role infrastructure investment serves in creating jobs, boosting economic growth, and ensuring our region and nation remain globally competitive.
“I look forward to continue working with all of our partners in keeping this vital project on the right track so we can provide commuters the relief they desperately need and the peace of mind they deserve.”
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL
“The 110-year-old Portal Bridge is a chokepoint in our region’s aging transportation network. Along with my colleagues in the New Jersey delegation, I have been relentlessly focused on moving forward on the replacement project for Portal, a critical component of the Gateway Tunnel Project. I’m glad to see the Department of Transportation recognizes the financial commitment of New Jersey to this project and has changed its rating to reflect the urgency of this project and ensure progress toward getting shovels in the ground. Our commuters, businesses, and residents in North Jersey have waited a long time for this announcement.”
SENATE MINORITY LEADER TOM KEAN
“When people are commuting, they are missing time with their families. A dependable and modern rail system is about more than economic development, it is about making sure parents do not miss soccer games and dance recitals while waiting on a platform.
“We should all be encouraged that the Trump administration has upgraded the Portal North Bridge replacement project, but this is the beginning of the process, not the end. We need a strong bipartisan leader that can see it through the end.
“As a leader in the New Jersey Senate, I helped set the groundwork for this project with the sponsorship of the ‘Gateway Development Corporation’. A bipartisan coalition of Governors and legislators worked together to get this done.
“I will continue to do my part to ensure that a focused bipartisan, Bistate effort moves this project forward.”
UTILITY AND TRANSPORTATION CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION
“This is incredibly welcome news for New Jersey and the northeast region. While this act by itself does not guarantee funding, it represents significant forward movement on one of the most important transportation infrastructure projects in the country. The bridge must be fixed, or we will continue to see strangling delays along the northeast corridor. I want to thank all our federal and state officials who have fought and will continue to fight for this project.
“Our hope now is not only that this project will receive much needed federal funding, but that a new rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River – one that is built by and creates jobs for New Jerseyans – will also receive its due consideration.”