Biden Announces $292 Million in Gateway Project Funding

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, President Joe Biden traveled to New York to announce $292 million in funding for a new rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River to provide additional connection between Manhattan and New Jersey.

Part of the wider Gateway infrastructure program and the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed in November of 2021, the tunnel is expected to be finished in the mid-2030s. Funding will also be used to rehabilitate the century-old North River Tunnel, which had previously been the only passenger rail tunnel connecting New Jersey to midtown Manhattan.

The completed tunnel will provide four rail tracks between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. The project is hailed as an economic necessity due to the fact that New York City, Newark, Jersey City, and their adjacent suburbs account for $1.6 trillion of the U.S. GDP.

The wider Northeast megalopolis, which is served by this program through Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, accounts for a quarter of the U.S. GDP and is home to 50 million people who reside on less than two percent of the total U.S. landmass.

According to CBS, Biden, while speaking inside the North River Tunnel, said, “This tunnel opened for business in 1910, 113 years ago. The structure is literally deteriorating. The roof is leaking, the floor is sinking. Plus, it was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy.”

Josh Gottheimer, U.S. Representative of New Jersey’s Fifth District, stated on his website, “Millions of gallons of salt water flooded into the tunnel during Superstorm Sandy – damaging critical infrastructure that affects service today.”

According to the New York Times, Damage from Sandy is so severe that Amtrak has repeatedly warned that the tunnel would need to be closed by the mid 2030s for repairs to ensure its continued operability.

Outside of the Gateway program, public transit and infrastructure development has been a chief concern among New Jersey policymakers.

This past December, Governor Phil Murphy announced a $24 million investment for three separate public transit programs. $13.4 million of this will go toward improving access to transit facilities, $8.4 million toward bike infrastructure, and the remaining funds will be used for the revitalization of transit locations in mixed-use neighborhoods. This investment is a reflection on Murphy’s pledge to pursue transit-oriented development.

A junior political science student said, “It is important that New Jersey and New York expand their public transit access to ensure sustainability in an era of climate change. Cars and car infrastructure are not only unaffordable in the long term, but also detrimental to the environment and inefficient at transporting people from point A to point B.”

New Jersey Transit (NJT) has also made significant investments into the state’s transit system and is currently conducting studies on the feasibility of future projects.

One of these projects, the Passaic-Bergen-Hudson Transit Project, envisions the revival of a passenger rail service on the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railway right of way.

The project would provide a rail connection for the aforementioned three counties, with possible connections to the already existing Main Line, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Bergen County Line, and Pascack Valley Line. It would connect the cities of Paterson and Hackensack to cities in Hudson County, such as Hoboken and Jersey City, with rail connections into New York City.

There is also a proposal to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail into eastern Bergen County. Despite the name, it currently only operates in Hudson County.

Other candidate projects include the Ocean-Monmouth-Middlesex Line (MOM).

The MOM would connect the densely populated northern half of Ocean County to a rail spur from Middlesex County, meeting in Monmouth County.

The line would then continue to connect with the pre-existing North Jersey Coast Line, providing service upstate to Newark and eventually to New York.

Currently, the large Ocean County communities of Toms River, Brick, and Lakewood are only served by the Route 9 Bus Route, which frequently suffers traffic delays on the heavily traveled route.

A freshman political science student said, “It would be nice to be able to take a train from Ocean County to New York City…sitting in traffic, paying for parking, and paying tolls is frustrating.”