At the RPA Assembly last week, we polled conference attendees on what they thought would happen first: A) a new tunnel under the Hudson would be built, or B) one of the current Hudson tunnels is forced to shut down for an extended period of time. 85% of the respondent selected B, that a protracted shutdown is more likely.
Of course, a survey of a few hundred people, some of whom surely make their living in the transit world, isn’t scientific. Still, their reaction underscores the profound skepticism among the public about whether these crucial investments will actually take place.
On May 4, RPA President Tom Wright testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about the urgent need to improve and modernize the Northeast Corridor, given growing ridership and deteriorating infrastructure. More than 170,000 rail passengers trail in and out of Manhattan via the Hudson River tunnels, and RPA projections show that if we have the capacity, demand will continue to grow in the coming decades.
Wright pointed to a lack of strong leadership from the federal government as one factor limiting the ability to carry out urgently needed upgrades for the corridor. He also encouraged committee members to explore a new approach to funding and financing that includes new, reliable sources of revenue dedicated to financing critical NEC projects. While the historic level of funding for the NEC capital program is $400 million a year, Wright noted that it would take $4 billion a year for the next 15 years to completely eliminate the backlog of work and make basic improvements to the corridor.