Transportation

Growing Calls to Expand Trans-Hudson Rail Capacity

May 7, 2015

An Amtrak Acela train about to enter the 104-year old tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan.


By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—It’s almost five years since Governor Chris Christie cancelled a trans-Hudson rail tunnel, but fervent calls are renewing for regional leaders to make the construction of a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River their highest priority. 

On Thursday morning the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is hosting a summit with numerous speakers from the region’s major transportation agencies, as well as from the pubic and private sector. The summit starts tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM but you’ll only be to attend virtually at http://www.transhudsonsummit.com/

Back in November the New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney publicly announced one day after the current tunnels turned 104-years old that a new tunnel must be built to accommodate growing commuter and inter-city passenger rail ridership on NJ Transit and Amtrak trains. In March at the Rutgers University-Newark campus where the Senator appeared to support Rutgers University staff and professors in their quest for a new contract, he reiterated that call.

In a video interview with LaborPress, he said that New Jersey’s economy depends heavily on efficient transportation options to mid-town Manhattan. He said that the Port Authority could sell some of its Manhattan-based real estate assets in order to fund a new tunnel.

At the Regional Plan Assembly’s annual Assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel two weeks ago, Amtrak’s Chairman of the Board, Anthony Coscia, told LaborPress in a video interview that the national passenger railroad corporation would be investing $300 million of its precious dollars to advance the Gateway Project, Amtrak’s proposal to build a new tunnel, a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River and the expansion of New York’s Penn Station. Coscia subsequently said in a panel discussion that another regional entity should be taking the lead to build new trans-Hudson rail capacity, not just Amtrak.

In a statement released by New Jersey’s Senate Democrats on Wednesday afternoon, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo joined Senate President Sweeney in urging the Port Authority to fund the construction because the benefits outweigh the costs.

“New Jerseyans bring home $50 billion in wages earned in New York City, and the rail tunnel project alone would generate $10 billion in new Gross Regional Product and $4 billion in new Real Personal Income annually, add 44,000 permanent and 6,000 construction jobs, and boost real estate values up to $34,000 per home in communities located along rail lines,” the Senate Democrats said.  

According to the itinerary at http://www.transhudsonsummit.com/ panelists in one of the four sessions will discuss how to finance the approximately $15 billion cost. One of the panelists is Chris Ireland, director of infrastructure investments for the $155 billion Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. As in California where private investors are expressing interest in constructing and financing the country’s first high speed rail network from Los Angeles to San Francisco, private investors may equally be interested in constructing and financing a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.

@marcbuss marc@laborpress.org    

May 6, 2015

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