Off the Rails

Trump administration vows to block Gateway tunnel funding over political rivalries

East News Transportation
Trump administration vows to block Gateway tunnel funding over political rivalries. An Amtrak train pulling into a New Jersey station. (Phillip Capper/Flickr)
Trump administration vows to block Gateway tunnel funding over political rivalries. An Amtrak train pulling into a New Jersey station. (Phillip Capper/Flickr)

The acrimony between the Trump administration and New York and New Jersey officials has reached new heights, as President Trump is reportedly pushing congressional Republicans to block funding for the Hudson River-spanning Gateway tunnel project. AN had previously reported that the administration had pulled federal funding from the $12.7 billion project, but it seems that the move was made to punish New York State Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders in those states.

Although Trump’s predecessor had once called the Gateway tunnel, part of a $30 billion revitalization plan for the area, a top priority and promised that the federal government would contribute half, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has called Obama’s promises “a throwaway rally line.” Even after the states upped their combined contributions in the tunnel to $5 billion, the Trump administration turned up their nose at financing the rest.

Now, as both the New York Times and Washington Post have reported, President Trump has been personally lobbying House Speaker Paul Ryan to shoot down any chance of Gateway funding making its way into the next spending bill. According to sources in the administration, this is in retaliation to Senator Schumer for supposedly corralling Senate Democrats into delaying or blocking the confirmation of President Trump’s nominees to key positions.

It’s unlikely that any money from a future infrastructure bill would find its way to the Gateway tunnel either. In the $1.5 trillion version pitched by President Trump, Gateway would simply be too expensive, owing to contribution limits imposed on the federal government, and would be too old to qualify for much money anyways–projects approved after the bill’s passage are weighted to receive more funding by default.

The 105-year-old, two-track rail tunnel that currently runs under the Hudson River is owned by Amtrak, and the company has repeatedly warned that saltwater intrusion from Hurricane Sandy means that one of the tracks will need to be repaired sooner rather than later. Closing one half of the tunnel, intentionally or otherwise, without a backup would reduce train traffic, approximately 200,000 riders daily, under the river by up to 75 percent.

Of course, it’s possible that Trump could change his mind yet again down the line; the Gateway project was listed as the administration’s number one priority in the 2016 transition plan.

Related Stories