When will the Hudson River train tunnels close for repairs? Short answer: Who knows?

The North River train tunnels are nearing their 110th birthday and would be rehabilitated if the project, known as Gateway, gets the green light for supplemental funding from the feds.

Gottheimer repeated a phrase Tuesday night that he often uses, that according to Amtrak board Chairman Tony Coscia, the North River tunnels could be partially shut down in four to five years.

Around the same time, Chris Jones, senior vice president and chief planner at advocacy research group the Regional Plan Association, co-authored a report called "A Preventable Crisis" assessing what would happen in the region if the tunnels closed before the new ones are built.

Jones and his colleagues, the report said, found that if the Hudson tunnels are partially shut down, the four-year impact would cost the national economy $16 billion, the equivalent of 33,000 jobs per year. The region's entire transportation network of bridges, tunnels, the PATH train, ferries and roads would be severely affected.

Jones also said he's not aware of a specific timetable for the tunnels shutting down, but noted that the years keep ticking by.

"It’s looking increasingly likely that a shutdown would occur before new tunnels are in place," Jones said. "If we have another storm — it wouldn't have to be as bad as Sandy, but something that would worsen the damage in the tunnels — it could happen much sooner than anyone expects." 

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