Two years from now, New Jersey’s governor and Legislature will not only have to come up with an $8 billion plan to fund the Transportation Trust Fund for another five years, but also $3 billion or more if they want New Jersey Transit trains to be able to use Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel into New York’s Penn Station.
These are two of the most difficult fiscal challenges that the winner of the November 5 gubernatorial election will face, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), staked out opposing positions on the importance of a new rail tunnel long before the campaign began.
The Obama administration demonstrated its commitment to the $13.5 billion Gateway Tunnel project when it started construction 17 days ago on a $185 million concrete casement under the Hudson Yards in Manhattan for the rail tunnel to run through. The 800-foot-long “tunnel box” is scheduled for completion in October 2015 -- about the same time Northeast Corridor environmental impact studies are scheduled to be completed – and that’s when financing plans have to be put into place.
“What happens when Amtrak comes forward at midterm of the Obama administration, and says ‘You get at least 13 peak hour slots for NJ Transit trains direct into Penn Station. Are you interested?’” asked Martin E. Robins, director emeritus of Rutgers University’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center.
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