Construction began Monday on a project that officials hope is the next step in building an additional Hudson River train crossing linking Manhattan with New Jersey.
Work on the 800-foot-long concrete casing at the Hudson Yards Development is part of the proposed Gateway project, which would create the first new rail link between Penn Station and New Jersey in more than 100 years.
When that tunnel would be built is still unknown because federal funding has not been approved. But even without the funding to start digging, officials said the casing project will protect any future tunnel construction from storm flooding.
"There is no better way to create jobs in New York than to build and update our infrastructure," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a news conference attended by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and officials with Amtrak, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The concrete casing sets the stage for the creation of tracks that would run under Hudson Yards and would provide more track for the 450 trains that enter Penn Station daily from New Jersey. The project's administrators, Amtrak and the Department of Transportation along with the MTA, said the casings are designed to withstand major flooding.
During superstorm Sandy, the 103-year-old tunnels leading into Penn Station were closed for as long as two weeks due to flood damage. The funding for the $185-million construction, which is set to be complete in two years, came from federal Sandy relief money.
Nadler said he was grateful that Washington could provide support for the Gateway project, but it still needed to move quicker to ensure that the rest of the project gets off the ground as soon as possible.
"We know the system is old and we need to do something," he said.