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Op-Ed: Gateway - a Catalyst for Economic Growth

We need to double down our efforts to make Gateway a reality before an economic disaster strikes our region

mark longo

For months, the Trump administration has promised a comprehensive infrastructure program as advocates, experts, and business leaders throughout the Northeast have raised the alarm about the Northeast Corridor's Hudson River Tunnels. Make no mistake: The Gateway Project is the most important infrastructure priority in the nation, and deserves to be treated as such.

Now that the administration's plan is out - short on details and funding, long on demanding more from taxpayers, state and local governments, and generally passing the buck on our nation's crumbling infrastructure - we need to double down our efforts to make Gateway a reality before an economic disaster strikes our region.

The current tunnels - severely damaged in Hurricane Sandy - may have to significantly reduce capacity in the next few years or shut down entirely to make repairs.

The millions of people who rely on the tunnels to get to work and travel around the region would suffer immediately. Closing just one tunnel could reduce capacity by as much as 75 percent, stranding residents and travelers. Even worse, the economic impacts on the region would be disastrous - costing hardworking taxpayers their jobs and their livelihoods, compelling companies to move to better-served cities, potentially hurting property values, and discouraging residents and businesses from investing in the region.

Further, the effects would almost certainly diminish potential growth, development, and job creation throughout the region. The Regional Plan Association, for example, expects work trips to Manhattan to increase by 24 percent by 2040, even as current commuting capacity cannot absorb any more workers as it is. Slightly higher growth forecasts would only compound the problem, preventing the region from unlocking its potential. And growth would be significantly less likely without Gateway.

Economic statistics paint an even clearer picture: + The Northeast Corridor serves almost a million riders per day across eight states and Washington, D.C.

  • That region contributes 20 percent of the national GDP, represents 17 percent of the population, and houses almost a hundred Fortune 500 company headquarters.

  • The Northeast Corridor itself drives over $50 billion in annual economic activity and is essential in linking residents to jobs and opportunity.

  • Gateway itself could create thousands of high-paying jobs directly in construction and other industries.

Some commentators fret at the cost of the project - over $20 billion - as a non-starter, or even a waste of money. This could not be further from the truth. The benefits of Gateway far outweigh the costs, and the significant economic penalty we face for inaction would dwarf the federal and state spending on the tunnel project.

The economic argument in favor of Gateway is twofold: It would stave off a crisis that experts have warned for years would come about if one or both of the current tunnels needed to be shut down. And it would catalyze growth, create jobs, and foster economic opportunity for an entire region for decades to come.

Imagine a region with enough transportation capacity to encourage and look forward to sustainable, long-term economic growth, rather than limiting it. This could be our future, if we commence the Gateway project; now is the time to make it a reality.

Mark Longo is the director of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative 825.

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