Coalition marks delay on the Hudson Tunnel environmental impact statement with the launch of the count-up clock to track the FRA’s inaction
NEW YORK, NY – The leaders of the Build Gateway Now Coalition today rallied in Penn Station to mark 18 months since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) missed their self-imposed deadline to approve the Hudson Tunnel environmental impact statement (EIS) and allow the project to move forward. The coalition also launched a count-up clock on the buildgateway.org website to track how far past their own deadline the FRA is in real time.
The EIS must be approved by the end of 2019 in order for the project to remain on the schedule and cost estimate outlined in the recently submitted updated financial plan. Moreover, the FRA’s failure to approve the EIS prevents critical pre-construction work to be completed, even without a dollar of federal funding being issued to support the project.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and the Gateway Development Corporation (GDC) submitted the Administrative Draft of Final EIS to U.S. DOT in February 2018, on schedule for a planned March 30th completion if the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and FRA adhered to their own deadline. The work by GDC and local partners was completed in only 22 months – more than twice as fast as usual for the project of its size – yet now, a year and a half after their deadline, the Record of Decision for the EIS has yet to be issued.
At 108-years old, and badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the existing North River Tunnel is in desperate need of significant repairs to avoid major disruptions in travel. A recent report from Regional Plan Association estimates that the shutdown would cost the U.S. at least $16 billion in lost economic activity, $22 billion in lost home value, and cause slower commutes for nearly half a million commuters.
“We are watching the Hudson Tunnel fail in front of our eyes with mounting problems and delays, putting the economies of New York, New Jersey, and the entire country at risk,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of Regional Plan Association. “We are a year and a half past the FRA’s own deadline for a process that shouldn’t take more than a few months. It’s far past time for the U.S. DOT and FRA to issue a Record of Decision for the EIS in order to keep it on schedule and on budget in accordance with the GDC’s updated financial plan.”
“The Gateway Program is the most significant infrastructure project in the United States. If the existing tunnels fail, it will severely disrupt the lives of half a million commuters, cost our national economy billions of dollars and cripple the northeast corridor – which accounts for 20 percent of our country’s GDP. Conversely, if completed, Gateway would transform the daily commute of hundreds of thousands of people and provide access to new jobs, industries and economic opportunities. Our message to the FRA is simple: approve the EIS and let’s build Gateway now,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President & CEO, New York Building Congress.
“CIANJ recognizes the critical role infrastructure plays in New Jersey’s economy. With our aging bridges and tunnels, the state’s economy and its potential for growth are threatened. There is no infrastructure project more important than the Gateway Project and it is time for our leaders in Washington, D.C. to join New York and New Jersey and fund the project so it can be completed. It is unacceptable that the Federal Railroad Administration has gone 18 months past its own self-imposed deadline to release the project’s environmental impact statement. This statement is critical and nothing can happen until it is issued – we are on borrowed time and can’t wait any longer,” said Anthony Russo, President, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ).
“Gateway is the single most important infrastructure plan in the country; it is imperative that the federal government uphold its responsibility to invest in and protect this nation’s infrastructure. Our region is responsible for 20 percent of the national GDP, and we cannot afford further delay to this project’s progress. The indispensable artery along the Northeast Corridor must be replaced and updated to ensure new capacity and resiliency—today, not tomorrow—to continue to serve commuters, residents, businesses, and all those who live, work, and play here,” said Steven Rubenstein, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York.
“Gateway is a top priority for New York’s business community as most of our leading companies have employees who live or work on both sides of the river, making rail access a critical factor in the regional economy,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
“Every day that the USDOT refuses to advance the Gateway program brings us a day closer to an epic failure of transportation infrastructure that will have a severe impact on the lives of our region’s residents and the vitality of our nation’s economy,” said Chip Hallock, President & CEO, Newark Regional Business Partnership. “Now is the time for construction, not evading responsibility with further excuses and delays.”
“The County of Union, which is serviced by four commuter rail lines and 16 stations to New York City, very strongly supports the mission of Build Gateway Now. Any major repairs that would require the closure of a tunnel will have catastrophic impacts on our County, our region and national economy. The Gateway Tunnel Project addresses our economic needs: the construction of two new tunnels and repair of the existing tunnels, which would expand capacity, alleviate stress, and greatly reduce delays. It cannot be understated: the Gateway Tunnel Project, which has long been postponed, will have the most significant economic impact of any in the nation. We absolutely must obtain Federal funding and build Gateway as soon as is humanly possible,” said Union County Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski.
“We cannot afford to continue to gamble our collective future, by failing to promptly proceed with the Gateway Project. The long-term health and growth of the municipalities along our line, no less the entire north east, is threatened by the condition of the existing Hudson River Tunnels, and the ongoing failure of the federal authorities to take action on the Gateway Project. There are more than one million residents along the Raritan Valley Line of NJ Transit, whose daily lives would be dramatically impacted should one of the existing tunnels be closed to traffic. We join with the other member organizations of Build Gateway Now to demand immediate action on this critical infrastructure project,” said Bruce Bergen, Chairman of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, which represents 4 Counties, 28 municipalities and in excess of 23,500 daily riders.
Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Not building the Gateway Tunnel is not an option. Our region is in desperate need of a new tunnel under the Hudson River to ensure that commuters can depend on public transportation. When commuters know they have a reliable train system, they are less likely to consider getting into a car, which would help reduce emissions from the transportation sector - the #1 contributor to climate change in New York State and nationwide. That's why we join in the call on the Trump Administration to approve the Environmental Impact Statement and allow the Gateway Tunnel project to move forward. We thank Regional Plan Association for their continued leadership of the Build Gateway Coalition."
“There is absolutely no question that this project is the linchpin of the entire Northeast Corridor and not just the responsibility of NY & NJ -- despite their generous financial commitments to the project,” said Robert Wessels, Acting Executive Director of the General Contractors Association of New York (GCA). “It is important to the economy of the entire Northeast Corridor, from Washington to Boston – and beyond. Frankly, it is critically important to the national economy. We also want to commend the way the Gateway Development Corporation approached the planning of this project. They want to build it smartly and efficiently and they’ve reached out to the construction and engineering industries – and to the larger business community -- to get a sense of best practices. That has created an unprecedented atmosphere where both the government and the private sector can have a constructive dialogue about how to make this project a model for how things could and should get done. The bottom line is that we must advance Gateway now...the clock is ticking and time is not on our side.”
“We urge the Federal Railway Administration to immediately approve the Hudson Tunnel environmental impact statement and move the project forward to construction. The project is critical to the needs of Long Island Railroad commuters that rely on connections with Amtrak services at Pennsylvania Station for access to the rest of the Northeast Region and beyond. The disruption that would result from a failure of a Hudson tunnel would inflict severe damage on the economy of the region, including Long Island,” said Dave Kapell, Executive Director, Right Track For Long Island Coalition.
“Despite the fact that President Trump is a private developer from New York City, he has shown no interest in supporting critical infrastructure projects in Democratic-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. Now for political retribution, the President is roadblocking the Gateway rail tunnel project, putting thousands of commuters and our nation’s economy in dangerous risk. With the clock ticking, the Federal government is overdue on providing real leadership. The time for bold action is now,” said Liam Blank, Advocacy & Policy Manager, Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
"It's long past time to build the Gateway Tunnel and ensure rail access across the Hudson for generations to come. Transit riders can't keep relying on infrastructure that's more than a century old and now corroding from salt water. We need to prove this country can build by addressing this most pressing core infrastructure concern at the very heart of our region," said Danny Pearlstein, Policy & Communications Director, Riders Alliance.
“The hypocrisy of the Trump Administration on this issue is incredible,” said Build Gateway Now Campaign Manager Brian Fritsch. “After previously stating many times that they did not want the environmental review process to be an impediment to building critical infrastructure projects, they have used it over the past year and a half to effectively strangle the Hudson Tunnel project. This callous action puts the national economy and the livelihoods of thousands of Americans at serious risk.”
The Build Gateway Now Coalition has been supporting the Gateway Program since it was founded in 2018. This year, the coalition has been active publicizing the release of Regional Plan Association report “A Preventable Crisis,” which details the economic and human costs of a partial shutdown of the Hudson River rail tunnel. The Coalition is also currently running a public petition to encourage relevant stakeholders to support the project, which has compiled over 1,500 signatures, far surpassing its original goal.