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Officials: Full-steam ahead for rail tunnel across Hudson River

Sen. Charles Schumer is joined by, from left,

Sen. Charles Schumer is joined by, from left, Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey at a news conference Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at Penn Station. They touted a $24 billion proposal to build a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

A $24 billion proposal to build a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River — alleviating pressure on crowded Penn Station — is making significant progress, federal officials say.

About $10 billion of Amtrak’s proposed Gateway project is expected to come from the Port Authority, which is to provide more details as part of a 10-year capital program to be released this week.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), on Friday outlined several milestones recently reached in the project, and to urge the next presidential administration to keep the momentum going until the project is complete.

“I have always known that I would not be around to see the finished product as secretary, but through hard work and tireless focus we are laying that foundation in the grand rebirth of one of America’s great corridors,” Foxx said at a news conference in Penn Station. “We do not have time to waste. We have to get this done.”

Officials said several recent accomplishments have brought the project closer to reality. The U.S. Department of Transportation added Gateway to President Barack Obama’s “Presidential Permitting Dashboard,” which will fast-track the project through required environmental reviews.

The recently passed federal transportation bill also created new funding streams for the project, including through a $35 billion federal loan program and a newly created Federal Transit Administration grant program, to which project officials have already applied.

And Amtrak recently finished building a concrete casing under the new Hudson Yards development that creates the path for the tunnel into and out of Penn.

Officials said the new tunnel is badly needed, as the existing pathway is already at capacity, carrying 450 trains and more than 200,000 passengers daily. The century-old tunnel was also badly damaged by superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters.

“This is not one of the most important federal transportation projects in the country. This is the most important federal transportation project,” Schumer said. “Without this, if the tunnels collapsed, the existing tunnels, we will go into a recession in this region, and then probably in the country. It’s that significant.”

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