Gateway Program announces financial adviser as funding hangs in uncertainty

The Gateway Program Development Corporation trustees say they received at least 10 proposals from firms vying to be selected as a financial adviser. Ernst & Young was approved to help secure funding.

“We want to be ready to procure with this project as soon as we have clarity on the funding side. There is a huge amount for us to do ,” said Frank Sacr, interim finance director at the Gateway Program Development Corporation.

Phase One of the Gateway Project includes two projects — the Portal North Bridge Project and the Hudson Tunnel Project.

“The tunnel itself is now at 30 percent design. When we last talked about this it was roughly 10 to 15 percent design. There is a lot of technical work and interagency cooperation that’s all teeing up to get us to construction when the finance deal comes together,” said John Porcari, interim executive director at the Gateway Program Development Corporation.

That’s because the previous administration agreed to pay half of the $13.4 billion for phase one if New Jersey and New York paid the other half. But the current administration has a different view and it’s still unclear if federal funding will be granted. The trustees stayed confident on the matter.

“It’s not wishful thinking. And again, I’ve got many instances in my past, as do other members of this board, as do other members of this team, who have had instances where they have said there were political difficulties but we’ll get it done. And guess what, it’s gotten done. That’s what this is. It’s a realistic, sober understanding of what the situation ism but we will succeed,” said Steven Cohen, chair of the Gateway Program Development Corporation.

We asked whether the newly appointed financial advisor is being put in place as a safety net to find other money if federal funding does not come through.

“There is no substitute for federal funding. On a project of national significance, they simply don’t go forward without federal funding. If you recall, this is a single point of failure for 10 percent of America’s GDP. It will go forward,” Porcari said.

“It is absolutely a national security issue, both on the economic side and in terms of the health and well-being of a whole bunch of people up and down the Northeast Corridor,” said Cohen. “The reality is, and I encourage any of you to write or report, what happens when the tunnel fails. That is a thing that people don’t talk enough about.”

Cohen stressed it will get resolved.

“I can’t tell you with certainty how this will come to pass. I will tell you with certainty it will come to pass, and part of this is beyond the scoop of what any of us do, which is simply politics,” said Cohen.

The Department of Transportation, which oversees the funding, was not immediately available for comment.