NY governor Cuomo balks over new Amtrak tunnel to N.J. — Who Pays How Much for It?

“It is always seems to be about who writes the check.”

The existing Amtrak tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey is a century old and in disrepair. Electrical wires corroded by Hurricane Sandy’s floods prompted hours-long delays last month that highlighted the tunnel’s condition and previewed what could become a chronic problem if nothing is done.

Yet Cuomo, a Democrat, sees little light ahead in this tunnel project. He balked at an invitation from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to meet with him and New Jersey’s Gov. Christie to discuss the construction of a new tunnel, saying there was “no reason to meet now.” He told reporters recently that the outlook for the tunnel was “not especially bright.” If that’s true, then it’s bad news for millions of commuters, not just the 200,000 people who ride trains through the tunnel each day. Amtrak estimates that the existing tunnel – which has a single track in two tubes, one for either direction – has a life expectancy of about 20 years. The repair option of Closing one tube for a year of repairs would reduce the number of trains using the tunnel from 24 to six per hour at peak times, forcing tens of thousands of people onto ferries, buses, or cars…

A new tunnel would likely take a decade to build. There are several reasons offered by Cuomo as to why he is reluctant to start up the tunnel-boring machine. He said the project wouldn’t work unless Washington committed a sizable investment. An earlier tunnel proposal included $3 billion in federal funds, but was axed by Christie in 2010. 2) Cuomo says the feds are promising only “loans.” Instead of grants.

“If the federal government is serious that this is critical, which it is . . . we need federal funds,” Cuomo said last week. “They need to put their money where their mouth is.” New Jersey governor Christie has said he would support a new tunnel project if part of the cost were borne by the State of New York or New York City, neither of which pledged funds for the previous one. Cuomo’s tunnel stance is a departure for a governor who has seemed to revel in taking on big infrastructure projects. He used federal loans to finance the $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge. Last month, he joined Vice President Biden to announce a $4 billion plan to rebuild LaGuardia’s cramped terminals.

There are several key differences between those projects and the tunnel, Cuomo noted. Private airlines will cover roughly half of the cost of the new LaGuardia. And while the Tappan Zee is a state bridge — it is also an essential part of the the State Toll Road System.

Governor Cuomo differentiates by stating that the new rail tunnel would be owned by Amtrak and used for only Amtrak and New Jersey trains. “It’s not my tunnel,” he told reporters last week. “Why don’t you pay for it?”

I saw this sort of “it’s not our traffic or trains” attitude back in 1998 while interviewing NY State legislative aids in Albany. From up the Hudson River, the view of the NEC and the tunnels is different. Very different.

As for the tunnels connecting to the Long Island rail system — yes that is seen differently from Albany political offices.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20150816_Cuomo_balks_over_new_Amtrak_tunnel_to_N_J_.html#Yh2oY6W1fgotytPs.99 http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20150816_Cuomo_balks_over_new_Amtrak_tunnel_to_N_J_.html

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