WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee overseeing America's rail infrastructure, praised the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announcement that the Hudson Tunnel Project and Portal North Bridge – both critical elements of the Gateway Program – have moved into the Project Development process for New Starts, a type of Capital Investment Grant (CIG) through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
“It’s been almost a year since commuter delays caused by Hudson tunnel repairs gave us a glimpse of what will happen if we do nothing to invest in this critical infrastructure,” said Sen. Booker. "Today’s important announcement shows continued progress by the state and federal partners as the Gateway Program continues to moves closer to providing much-needed relief to New Jersey commuters. The fact is, investments like this in the Hudson Tunnel and Portal Bridge are not only vital to the safety and efficiency of our nation's surface transportation network, but they also power the engine that drives our region’s economy while boosting job creation. I stand committed to continue working with our partners in moving this vital project forward.”
Project Development is the first phase these projects will be required to complete before a construction grant could be awarded. In this phase, the Hudson Tunnel Project and Portal North Bridge will move forward with identifying a specific development plan and completing the environmental review process. The move also authorizes the project sponsor, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) to begin incurring costs related to the environmental review and engineering and design activities.
The CIG program is FTA’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit. It is a discretionary grant program unlike most others in government. Instead of an annual call for applications and selection of awardees by the FTA, the law requires that projects seeking CIG funding complete a series of steps over several years to be eligible for funding. For New Starts like the two Gateway projects, the law requires completion of two phases in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement – Project Development and Engineering.
As part of his commitment to moving this critical project forward, Sen. Booker joined Sens. Menendez and Schumer (D-NY) in December to announce provisions benefiting the Gateway Program that were included in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first Federal law in over ten years to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation. Sen. Booker fought to have several key provisions incorporated into the FAST Act to help provide reliable funding sources for the Gateway Program. These include measures enabling Amtrak for the first time to reinvest revenue from the Northeast Corridor back into the Northeast Corridor and allowing more flexibility in financing for vital infrastructure projects like Gateway by permitting repayment of federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loans 35 years from project completion.
In August 2015 Sen. Booker convened a meeting in his office with Senator Menendez, Governor Christie and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Foxx to discuss governance and funding for the Gateway Program. Coming out of that meeting, in November Sen. Booker joined Governors Christie and Cuomo and Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand in announcing they reached an agreement on funding commitments and a governance structure that will allow Gateway Tunnel Project to move forward.
In March, Sens. Booker and Schumer led a letter to Federal appropriators calling for robust funding for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor for Fiscal Year 2017, including funding for grant programs authorized in the FAST Act to help address the state of good repair backlog along with safety improvements.