The Biden administration on Tuesday announced nine sites across the country will receive what the administration called a “mega” grant to fortify surrounding infrastructure.
One of those sites, where President Joe Biden appeared later that day, is in New York City: The Hudson Tunnel Project is set to receive $292 million to finish construction.
Biden touted the $292 million “mega” grant, created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law he signed in 2021, during his visit to New York City.
"This is just the beginning," Biden said of the grants. "It's the beginning of finally constructing a 21st Century rail system that's long, long overdue in this country."
According to the White House, the money will go toward completing the final section of concrete casing near Hudson Yards, protecting the right-of-way for the future tracks connecting Penn Station to the river’s edge. The Hudson Tunnel Project will likely create around 72,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the White House, and the completed project aims to reduce commute times and increase reliability for NJ Transit and Amtrak riders.
"This project is critical to transforming the Northeast Corridor; increasing speeds capacity, reliability and safety," Biden said, later adding: "The new tunnel is going to have two tubes with one track and each tube so they can keep operating up to one side breaks down. But it's going to be safer, more resilient, more reliable. The biggest rail line in the United States of America."
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger rail line in the country, and the crossing under the Hudson is its most important nexus point,” Biden said. “After a lot of hard work, and a lot of stubborn persistence, our efforts are finally paying off.”
The president called the project a crucial one, with potential wide-ranging impacts outside of New York.
“If this line shuts down for just one day it would cost our economy $100 million,” Biden said. “And the current Hudson River rail tunnel can be a major chokepoint.”
A spokesman for the Gateway program said the aim is to begin construction this year on the new section, noting the grant expedites the process of lining up the necessary funding to proceed. It is one piece of the massive Gateway project, which is expected to receive several billion dollars under the infrastructure law.
"This is a project that, it has been known for years and years, has been needed," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with Spectrum News prior to Tuesday's event. "I've seen some of these tunnels firsthand. There is infrastructure that goes back, in some cases, 100 years or more."
"We have got to have the kind of infrastructure that supports our competitiveness as a country in the 21st century, and what's exciting to us is after spending the first year of this administration just really selling the idea that we had to get this bill together and get the funding, now we're starting to move that funding and move toward results," Buttigieg, who appeared with Biden in New York on Tuesday, added.
At Tuesday's event, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., cheered the crucial investment.
"Thanks to this historic $292 million investment, led by the president, passed by my Senate and House colleagues, Gateway is finally leaving the station," Schumer said, referring to the comprehensive rail plan set to revamp the Northeast Corridor train system.
"You can use whatever train metaphor you want [...] but get on the Joe Biden Express now because we are not stopping," he quipped. For four years, the former president was shoveling you-know-what, and now we’re going to put real shovels in the ground, wielded by real American workers.”
The Biden-Harris administration awarded a total of $1.2 billion for the nine massive infrastructure projects across the country, having received 138 applications for the grant program.
Those investments include $250 million for improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky; $110 million to replace the Alligator River Bridge in North Carolina and $78 million to upgrade Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard.
“From the Hoover Dam to the Golden Gate Bridge, some infrastructure projects are so large and complex that they defy traditional funding systems—and so significant that they become iconic parts of the American landscape,” Buttigieg wrote in a statement, adding that the selected projects will “create jobs, strengthen our supply chains, expand our economy, and renew America’s built landscape.”
The formal announcement comes as the White House is ramping up its travels to highlight the impact of its recent legislative victories. Biden visited Baltimore on Monday to talk about using infrastructure law funds to replace a 150-year-old rail tunnel there, and he’ll stop in Philadelphia later in the week.
“When America sees these projects popping up across the country, it sends a really important message: When we work together, there’s not a damn thing we can’t do,” Biden said in Baltimore on Monday. “There’s nothing beyond our capacity.”
Buttigieg said that one of the goals of Biden's infrastructure bill is "to advance projects that are so big and so complex that they might not have gotten done otherwise."
"This is an example of that," he said of the Gateway project. "This is a specific set of projects in a specific place, but an example of one of those projects so big and so important to our economy, that it actually is a matter of national interest."
"The Gateway Project represents so many people moving through that that part of the United States, the tunnels, and everything that surrounds them," Buttigieg continued. "It matters so much that if they weren't available, you would feel the economic consequences of that all the way to my house in Michigan and beyond."
"That's why we think it makes sense for there to be this federal role," he added. "This is an example of something that might not have been possible without the president's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the support that we got to put our federal money where our mouth is when we say that Americans ought to have first rated infrastructure."
Spectrum News' Kevin Frey contributed to this report.