Another important step toward making the proposed Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson a reality. It’s the public’s turn to weigh in on its potential environmental impact. Senior Correspondent David Cruz is standing by outside the hearing in Secaucus.
Cruz: It’s the draft environmental impact statement and this is a very preliminary report on what we can expect once the Gateway Project gets off the drawing board. What we heard today was an overwhelming sense that the clock is ticking.
“The entire process is so filled with concern about the condition of the existing tunnels that everything has to be moved along at the fastest possible speed. And the fact that they’re gotten to this stage is a good sign,” said Martin Robins, Founding Director of the Alan M. Vorhees Transportation Center.
“The Gateway Project is the most important infrastructure project in the country. This is the first step,” Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer said.
“Time is always critical,” said NJ Transit Spokesperson Charles Ingoglia. “It took time to do the environmental evaluation correctly and to get through the process that the feds will say you’ve done your homework and you’ve done a good job. As we’re doing this we have an aging tunnel, 100 years plus. So it isn’t getting better, it isn’t healing itself, so there’s another time element at play here. Money is always something that expands or contracts as the job is needed, but what’s really important here is that we don’t waste time and let the older tunnel continue to be a patchwork, a system of damage and repair and that there’s another storm that compromises it.”
Cruz: This is a very preliminary report but the fact remains that the federal government, which is paying for 50 percent of this project with New Jersey and New York splitting the rest, is not going to release any funds, make any funds available until this part of the process is complete. Just a couple of notes, maybe takeaways from this. The current price tag for the project now is $12.9 billion. $11.2 of that is for the new tunnel and the remainder is for the replacement of the existing tunnel. Last year, the budget was expected to be $7.7 billion. At $5 billion a year, you can see why people are saying that time is of the essence. The new tunnel is expected to be completed in seven years. The rehabbing of the existing tunnel, four years, the entire phase one of this project is expected to be built out by 2030 if everything goes according to plan. This is the second of three meetings. The next one will be held next week in Union City.