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Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Weinberg, Diegnan, Kean: Senate Panel Vote Puts New Gateway Commission on Track

Legislation moving simultaneously in New York requires 50-50 state split on local share for rail tunnels, Portal bridge

By NJG Press Releases, June 17 2019 4:12 pm

Trenton – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Transportation Committee Chair Patrick Diegnan and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean today lauded Senate Budget Committee passage of landmark legislation to establish a Gateway Development Commission to oversee planning, funding and construction of new rail tunnels and other projects that will double trans-Hudson rail capacity and provide one-seat rides to Manhattan on all NJ Transit lines.

The bipartisan bill, S-3918, formally establishes an agreement under which the State of New Jersey and the State of New York will each pay a 50-50 share of funding for construction of the new two-track Gateway rail tunnel, reconstruction of the Portal Bridge, rehabilitation of the Sandy-damaged North River rail tunnels that currently carry NJ Transit trains to New York, and linkage of the new tunnels to the Northeast Corridor that Amtrak and NJ Transit trains share.

“We are pleased that six-way negotiations involving the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s Offices from New Jersey and New York culminated in agreement on consensus legislation that is moving through both state legislatures this week,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “We are particularly grateful to New York Assembly Authorities Chair Amy Paulin for her leadership and cooperation over the past several months.”

“The most important part of our bill is the binding commitment on both New York and New Jersey to contribute on an equal basis to the local share of the funding commitment for construction of the new Gateway rail tunnel, reconstruction of the Portal Bridge, rehabilitation of the existing rail tunnels that were damaged by superstorm Sandy, and connections to the Northeast Corridor line,” said Senator Diegnan. “This is good legislation that guarantees accountability, transparency and critical labor protections throughout construction of the largest public works project in the nation.”

“We are in a race against time to get the new Gateway tunnels built before the Sandy-damaged tunnels Sandy are forced to close for repairs, which would cut NJ Transit trans-Hudson rail capacity by 75 percent and cripple our region’s economy,” said Senator Kean (R-Union). “But what is really important is the long-term increase in capacity that new tunnels would create, which will finally provide a one-seat ride to Manhattan for all New Jersey rail riders, including those on the Raritan Valley Line.”

The Senate Budget Committee approved the bill today and it is scheduled to be voted upon by the Assembly Appropriations Committee tomorrow. Both houses are expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.

The bistate legislation would create a seven-member commission to oversee the Gateway project, require each state to pay 50 percent of the combined New Jersey-New York share of the project, provide for legislative oversight, set strict standards of transparency and accountability, and provide gubernatorial veto powers  over commission actions. These provisions mirror Port Authority legislation and by-laws.

The proposed legislation establishes the Gateway Development Commission as a partnership among New Jersey, New York State and Amtrak to oversee the planning, funding and construction of the new Hudson River rail tunnels, repair of the existing tunnels, construction of a New York Penn Station South for NJ Transit trains, the construction of the Portal North and Portal South rail bridges, replacement of the Sawtooth rail bridge, the addition of two more Northeast Corridor rail tracks between Newark and Secaucus, and construction of the Bergen Loop to enable one-seat rides on all NJ Transit trains to Manhattan.

The legislation requires collective voting by Gateway commissioners from New York, New Jersey and Amtrak, and requires the agreement of a majority of commissioners from all three entities. The bill also gives the New Jersey and New York governors the power to veto agency actions — a power the governors have over the Port Authority and other bistate agencies.

The transparency, accountability, financial disclosure, open public records and open public meetings requirements in the legislation are patterned after those in place at the Port Authority, and the bill requires the agency to follow existing procurement, prevailing wage and property acquisition laws.

“We need to get Gateway moving and this legislation provides a strong framework to ensure that the project is done right,” said Senator Weinberg. “When federal funding is finally approved, we will have the right agency and people in place to plan, build and manage the largest and most important mass transit project in the nation.”

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