Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday that the long-delayed Gateway tunnel project, which will build a second rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, is set to receive nearly $6.9 billion in federal funds, the biggest such grant in U.S. history.
Schumer, a Brooklyn native, announced the project on the west side of Manhattan Thursday morning. The project will create 72,000 jobs and pump $19 billion into the state's economy, Schumer claimed.
"Gateway is the most consequential infrastructure project in all of America," Schumer said. "Everyone across the country agrees if the tunnels that cross the Hudson collapse or are unusauble, our whole economy goes into turmoil."
The announcement Thursday kicked off the engineering phase of the project, Schumer and the White House said.
New York's senior senator emphasized the urgency of the project, warning the current century-old tunnel does not "have much time left" after sustaining damage and corrosion from salt water that flowed in during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It is the only passenger rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York and over 200,000 passenger trips are made on New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains through it each weekday, according to the Biden administration.
"The old tunnels are deteriorating. They could be unusable in a year. They could be unusable in 10 years, but no one thinks they're gonna last very long," he said. "And that's why we wanted to move so quickly because if they're not usable, if they're dangerous, as I said, our whole economy goes into a tailspin."
In a speech on manfuracturing and his economic plan in South Carolina on Thursday, President Joe Biden remarked on the condition of the existing tunnel and said once the new one is complete, "you'll be able to go through it at 100 miles per hour instead of 30 miles per hour."
New Jersey Transit and Amtrak riders will see more frequent trains and a reduction in commute times, the White House said in a release.
Schumer suggested the old tunnel could be refurbished down the road to double the capacity between New York and New Jersey, but additional funding would be needed for that. The two tracks in the old tunnel can sustain 24 trains an hour, creating "bottlenecks and delays" that "cascade throughout the Northeast corridor," according to the White House.
"Beyond its age and regular maintenance, in 2012, millions of gallons of salt water flooded into the tunnel during Superstorm Sandy," the White House said. "Even today, the remnants of seawater that entered the tunnel in 2012 continue to harm the concrete, steel, tracks and third rail, signaling, and electrical components within the tunnel."
The new tunnel will provide a vital artery in the northeast for rail traffic, where travel demand could rises as much as 32% more than pre-pandemic levels by the time the project is completed, according to estimates by the Regional Plan Association — a century-old nonprofit dedicated to the development of the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut region.
After the Obama administration prioritized the Gateway Program as one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country, the project stalled during the presidency of Donald Trump, who urged Congress to slash its funding.
"No one worked harder to make Gateway happen," Biden's former chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted of Schumer, adding when he was at the White House the majority leader "made it clear that this was his top priority."
Biden and congressional Democrats returned focus back on the project and ensured it recieved funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. In January, Biden went to New York City to announce a $292 million grant to fund construction in an early phase of the project.
"The Trump administration wouldn't let it happen. At one point President Trump said 'if you give me the wall, maybe I'll give you a Gateway.' That was the kind of games he played," Schumer said Thursday. "President Trump said it's not happening. Look where he is and look where we are. We're getting Gateway done and he's busy with other activities."
Schumer added it would be an uphill climb for congressional Republicans to rescind the funding because they will need 60 votes in the Senate where Democrats currently have one-seat majority.
"It will not happen," Schumer said. "That's why we're rushing to get the money now, so we get it under a friendly administration, friendly Senate."
The project will be funded by the $6.88 billion federal grant and $3.4 billion each from New Jersey and New York. Even then, Schumer said, the Gateway Program is applying for an additional $3.8 billion in federal dollars because of cost overruns the senator blamed on delays by the Trump administration.
"It's a happy day. It's a happy day for the New York New Jersey economy. It's a happy day for rail transit across the whole northeast corridor," Schumer said. "It's a happy day for all the new jobs that are going to be created right here in the New York New Jersey economy."