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NY, NJ officials, Trump talk Gateway tunnel to Penn Station

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday gathered New York and New Jersey officials to discuss the Gateway program to build a Hudson River tunnel to Penn Station, reaching again across the aisle in what attendees called an encouraging step for the infrastructure project.

Trump appeared to support the $30 billion Amtrak initiative, which the local leaders sold in a closed-door Cabinet Room meeting as crucial not just to New York but to the Northeastern seaboard and the national economy.

“I think we won him over,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Newsday.

“Not over until it’s over, but today was a good day,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), adding that he got the “strong impression that we’re talking about crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.”

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also were among the nearly two dozen participants, according to attendees and White House officials.

Cuomo called the meeting “productive” but also “inconclusive.”

Also representing the administration were Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, among others.

The officials were in search of half the funding necessary for the program, which would dig a rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, alleviating congestion amid repairs to other tunnels devastated by superstorm Sandy. Gateway also would expand Penn Station and build bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

“The expense of the program, which approaches $30 billion, will require a strong partnership to deliver these nine projects in a cost-effective manner by streamlining the permitting process, using innovative procurement techniques and being creative in the funding and financing of the program,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

King told Newsday that Trump was receptive as Cuomo, Christie and others discussed benefits, including thousands of construction jobs and a positive impact on the economy.

The governors stressed to the president that the project must be funded with public money, King said. The congressman was pleased at the spirit of bipartisanship, noting that Trump and Schumer shook hands repeatedly. “It was one big, happy family today,” King said.

Schumer said, “We told him why it was so important. But the administration has not been cooperating on Gateway, and I think we won him over.”

The senator, who a source with knowledge of the meeting said stayed behind to talk further with Trump, said the president would get back to the group in a day or two.

On Wednesday, the president sided with Schumer and other Democrats when he struck a deal on a three-month increase in the debt limit as part of a package of emergency relief funds for Harvey-devastated states.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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