Regional Plan Association Issues Report on the Impacts of a Partial Shutdown of the Trans-Hudson Tunnel

It’s Time to Get Real on How Life Without Gateway Will Affect the Nation:
Regional Plan Association Issues Report on the Impacts of a Partial Shutdown of the Trans-Hudson Tunnel

A shutdown without a new tunnel would cost the national economy $16 billion, reduce home values by $22 billion, and lead to decreased economic productivity; job losses; increased congestion and crashes across the northeastern United States

RPA leadership heads to DC to present its findings on Capitol Hill and call for Gateway funding

NEW YORK – Shutting down the Hudson River Tunnels to repair the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy without having new tunnels already built would have far-reaching consequences across many sectors of our regional and national economy, according to a new report released today by civic organization Regional Plan Association and Arup, a multinational professional services firm.

The report, entitled A Preventable Crisis: The Economic and Human Costs of a Hudson River Rail Tunnel Shutdown, details the human and economic toll of a partial Hudson River Tunnel shutdown without the alternative that a new, fully-funded Gateway project would provide.

The report’s findings are bleak, and among the most robust research on the implications of not fully funding Gateway to date:

A partial shutdown of the tunnels would mean dramatically expanded commute and travel times and increased congestion on public transportation and already stressed roadways and airports, leading to increased business and consumer costs, job loss, home devaluation, and health risks.

Effects of a four year shutdown would cost the national economy $16 billion, $1.5 billion in federal tax revenue, and $1 billion in state tax revenue outside of New York and Jersey.

“This report outlines what a grim new reality will look like. Every day that we aren’t building the Gateway project, we’re one day closer to real economic and social calamity that would be felt across the Tri-State area and beyond,” said Tom Wright, President of Regional Plan Association. “From job availability to housing prices, the price of household goods, and even the cost of air travel, every sector of our economy would feel the effects of a partial shutdown of the trans-Hudson tunnel. Residents would feel its impact across many facets of their lives. It is a slow-moving, predictable crisis which we have the capacity to prevent. It is time to fully fund the Gateway project now.”

More than 200,000 trips are taken through the existing Hudson River tunnel on a daily basis in as many as 450 trains. Rail travel below the Hudson between New Jersey and New York is already unreliable due to the tunnel’s advanced age and the extensive damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy; the tunnel will soon reach the end of its useful life.

In order to repair the existing tunnel, the two tubes would need to be closed one by one, reducing the number of trains going in and out of Penn Station by as much as 75%.

The Gateway project would build a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River before undergoing any work on the original tunnel to mitigate service reduction. While funds for the Gateway project were promised by the previous federal administration, the outlook for Gateway now looks increasingly uncertain with changing federal priorities. Meanwhile, the tunnel tubes continue to deteriorate.

Without the added resource of the Gateway tunnel, emergency work on the Trans-Hudson tunnel would mean that nearly half a million people would have longer, less reliable and more crowded commutes, losing hours of productive, personal and family time and putting jobs at risk.

The report also details the impact that repair of the Trans-Hudson tunnel, if needed before new rail capacity is built, would have on a variety of people and businesses.

Key report findings include:

  • 38,000 NJTransit riders would be unable to ride the train, forcing them into a variety of less-desirable options to get to and from work. Thousands of workers would eventually be forced to move or accept lower paying jobs closer to home.
     
  • Almost a quarter million drivers will have longer trips to work; more than half of these drivers would experience delays of a half-hour or more. An additional 170,000 riders would have longer rides on the PATH train or bus. Many commuters would need to add additional buffer time to their commutes, meaning less time for family and other priorities.
     
  • The shutdown would cost the national economy $16 billion over four years. More than half of this cost would be the result of increased work inefficiencies due to longer commutes. These wage costs alone equate to the loss of 33,000 jobs per year.
     
  • Forcing more than 10,000 drivers onto the roads would result in 38,000 additional car crashes that would result in thousands of injuries and 90-100 preventable deaths.
     
  • Transportation is nodal; other forms of transit malfunctions or shutdowns would have a compounding effect on people’s ability to get around regionally. Every time PATH, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the New York City subway, northeast airports or interstate highways experience shutdowns or delays, it would become even harder to get around regionally.
     
  • Homeowners would see their property values dip by a collective $22 billion. Owners of commercial property—offices, stores, health and education facilities, factories and warehouses—would also see a decline in property values.
     
  • $7 billion would be lost in Federal, state, and local tax revenue; including $1.5 billion in federal taxes and over $1 billion in states outside of New York and New Jersey.
     
  • Many displaced long-range Amtrak riders would fly instead, increasing DC to NYC air fares by as much as 65% and pricing out many leisure, small business and non-profit travelers.
     
  • Truck delays would cost the Northeast economy close to a billion dollars.

Regional Plan Association leadership is in Washington D.C today to present these findings to members of Congress with the hope of encouraging the full funding of the Gateway project before it’s too late.

“This report is clear and decisive: New Jersey is sitting on a transportation ticking time bomb. Failing to complete construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel before the current dilapidated tunnels are forced to shut down would cripple our economy and create real hardships for the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend each day on a safe and reliable transportation system,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate’s transit subcommittee. “The latest RPA study outlines in unambiguous terms the havoc a Hudson rail tunnel shutdown will wreak on our regional and national economies in lost jobs, lost production, diminished revenues, and plummeting home values, senselessly putting at risk the livelihoods and economic security of hardworking families and small business owners. We can get Gateway done faster and cheaper with the Trump Administration fully on board.  Not only must we move forward on Gateway without further delay, but this report underscores why we cannot afford not to.”

“RPA’s Hudson Tunnel report affirms what all of Gateway’s supporters have been saying for years. The costs of delaying this project any longer are too high. Too high for our region’s and the nation’s economy. Too high for the hundreds of thousands of commuters in New York and New Jersey who rely on this century-old infrastructure every day. And too high for our climate and air quality,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

“Today’s comprehensive report from the Regional Plan Association underscores what New Jersey commuters have known for far too long: we must act now to replace the Portal Bridge, build a new Hudson River Tunnel, and repair the existing tunnels for the future of our region,” said U. S. Senator Cory Booker. “This analysis should clearly demonstrate to everyone, including the Trump Administration, that the Gateway Program is one of the most urgent infrastructure projects in the country, and that inaction will cost the region and the nation billions of dollars in lost economic productivity. From increased congestion and crowding on public transportation to a significant decline in the region’s real estate values, we simply cannot ignore the severity of this problem waiting to happen. The Trump Administration’s refusal to act puts at risk the safety of the region and the economic vitality of the nation.”

“Regional Plan Association’s report makes the consequences of a partial shutdown of the Hudson River rail tunnel devastatingly clear,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Governor Murphy. “A failure in the tunnel would be catastrophic. Aside from the potential loss of life and injury, it would drain billions of dollars from our regional and national economies, and cause a needless significant increase in air pollution. Only a true partnership between the Federal Government, New Jersey and New York, and other public and private stakeholders can prevent this disaster. We must build Gateway together, and keep the Northeast Corridor moving.”

Jerry Zaro, Tony Coscia and Steven M. Cohen, the three Trustees of the Gateway Development Corporation, which oversees the Gateway Program, said, “This report brings the dire consequences of not building Gateway into harsh reality. Facts matter, and the facts made clear in this report are that this region and this nation will lose billions of dollars, property values will plummet and congestion and climate damage will get even worse if we allow the status quo of relying on a century old one-track-in, one-track-out system to continue. We are grateful to the RPA and Build Gateway Now coalition for their ongoing work to move the most urgent infrastructure projects in the country forward.”

“As this RPA report makes clear, the economic consequences of a Trans-Hudson tunnel failure would be disastrous. Virtually every major business in the metropolitan region has employees who live or work on both sides of the Hudson,” stated Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “The disruption that would result from tunnel shut-down cannot be overstated.”

“This report reaffirms that the Gateway Program is not only the most important project in New York, but it is the most critical piece of infrastructure in the country,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President & CEO of the New York Building Congress. “If the existing tunnels fail, it will cripple the northeast corridor, severely disrupt the lives of half a million commuters and cost our national economy $16 billion over four years. On the other hand, 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 is simple – we must build Gateway now.”

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Shutting down one of the Hudson River tunnels would cripple public transportation in the entire Northeast and seriously harm the environment. Additional tunnel bottlenecks will push more cars onto highways, increasing air pollution and the transportation sector's role in climate change. This illustrates how important completing the Gateway Project is to the entire region. We thank RPA for this vital report and their continued leadership of the Build Gateway Coalition."    

“NJ commuters are riding on borrowed time, and that’s a big gamble for the nation’s largest economy,” said Robert Briant, Jr. CEO, Utility & Transportation Contractors Association. “The trans-Hudson tunnels are the weakest, yet most critical asset in our region. This report clearly shows that without action, we leave ourselves open to economic calamity for which we are wholly unprepared. Even a short-term failure of our tunnels would send the region and its economy reeling, and we cannot allow our businesses, communities, and infrastructure to continue to absorb this unnecessary risk. Building Gateway will not only create jobs and improve commutes, it will help protect our overall economic stability, making the region stronger for generations to come.”

“Rebuilding the Hudson River tunnels and the connected infrastructure is not only important to reducing risk to the country’s largest economic city engine, it is also important to maintain the competitiveness of NYC and the entire Northeast Corridor in the global arena,” said David Armour, Chief City Executive, Siemens Corporation.

“This report is the most definitive wakeup call about what we could face if even just one existing tunnel is taken out of service and the dire implications of not moving forward immediately on the Gateway project,” stated Colleen Mahr, Mayor of Fanwood, NJ and President of the NJ League of Municipalities. “Every municipality, whether a large urban area or small suburban town, will suffer steep declines in home values, revenue, and ability to attract businesses and investments. Thousands of new Transit-Oriented residential units will lose their appeal, further devastating communities and downtown business districts. The potential to devastate our region and millions of residents, workers and visitors is frightening and very real. The existing tunnels are on borrowed time.”

"Essential to New Jersey's economic well-being is the ability to move people and freight within and through the state. Our current overburdened transit system is not the economic asset that it needs to be to keep the state competitive. RPA and ARUP's report highlights the severity of what has become a worsening problem and a clear direction for moving forward: we need the Gateway tunnels, and we need them now," said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director of New Jersey Future.

“A Preventable Crisis” builds upon RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan, released in 2017, recommending new rail tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers.

About Regional Plan Association

Regional Plan Association is an independent, not-for-profit civic organization that develops and promotes ideas to improve the economic health, environmental resiliency and quality of life of the New York metropolitan area. We conduct research on transportation, land use, housing, good governance and the environment. We advise cities, communities and public agencies. And we advocate for change that will contribute to the prosperity of all residents of the region. Since the 1920s, RPA has produced four landmark plans for the region, the most recent was released in November 2017. For more information, please visit www.rpa.org or fourthplan.org.

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