Among the many tooth and nail partisan policy fights in Washington, infrastructure projects are often a bipartisan breath of fresh air. But the long-delayed efforts to build the new Gateway rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey is proof that even projects with support from both major parties can be stalled when the president doesn’t stand behind them.
The $30 billion Gateway Program – which had once secured a 50-50 federal-state financing deal under then-President Barack Obama – has hit the brakes under President Donald Trump. Trump wanted the states to put up more money, and in March he threatened to veto a spending bill that included any funds for the project.
Along with the rail tunnel under the Hudson River, the Gateway plan includes replacing the 106-year-old Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River. Supporters say that because the Northeast Corridor carries 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, improving this infrastructure will have an economic impact not only on this region, but on the rest of the country.
While its supporters in Congress eventually managed to secure $540 million in federal funding that could be used for the project, state and local agencies are attempting to restructure their end of the financing. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced in June that it would oversee the construction and rehabilitation of the Hudson River tunnels, while New Jersey committed an additional $600 million to the bridge. The Port Authority also put up $12.5 million to finish sections of the tunnel near Hudson Yards, in order to not hold up the construction of that project.
Looking forward, the Gateway tunnel will likely continue to be a fight between Congress and Trump. Last month, New Jersey Democrats met with reporters to publicly urge Trump to support the plan, citing bipartisan support and the need to replace old infrastructure. “This ought to be a no-brainer for him, which is why I’ve retained my optimism,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.
Back in March, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said supporters will continue to seek other means of funding for Gateway, including federal grants. “Obviously, we have to apply for things like that,” Schumer said at the time. “But I would bet now that the president sees that Gateway is happening. They’re not going to stand in the way.”