Good Afternoon, my name is Vanessa Barrios, Senior Associate for State Programs and Advocacy at the Regional Plan Association.
We have no more time to lose in moving the new Hudson River Tunnels and Portal Bridge forward. Commuters like myself and every person in this room face delays due to fragile, fallible, and century-old infrastructure. We cannot play roulette with 10% of America’s GDP coming to a standstill.
There are some who see the cost and complexity of this project and want to make it smaller. While we urge the Gateway Development Corporation to continue looking for ways to control project costs, we believe that we need to build Gateway as conceived to deliver the full value of the project.
We have heard some call for Gateway to be built with one tunnel instead of two. Having only one new tunnel would not only limit capacity it would make the project unsafe. In an emergency situation, riders would have no exit options other than through the middle of one of the nation’s busiest waterways.
We have also heard some people question the need to build Penn South. Our research team, in consultation with some of the most experienced engineers in the nation have looked into this. Although all options face physical or operational barriers that cannot be surmounted without extremely high costs, the benefits of expanding Penn Station and connecting the new East River tunnel outweigh the expense.
And finally, some have asked why the federal government needs to be part of this. Gateway is a project of national importance. We believe that it is too soon to give up on obtaining federal support. People outside the NY/NJ area will experience the reverberating economic effect on their cities, towns, and communities if we fail to build the additional capacity needed to power the growth of this region. We all will certainly feel it if the tunnels fail.
We at RPA commend the Board and the partner agencies – Amtrak, Port Authority & NJ TRANSIT for doing everything in their power to move the Phase I projects along as quickly as possible. We also appreciate the time allowed for testimony. Every expert in this room knows that this project is critically important and extremely urgent and we must continue pushing forward. Thank you.