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OpinionEditorial

NJ-NY Gateway rail tunnel needs President Trump onboard

Now, it’s Trump’s chance to do what he loves: to think and build big.

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River Tunnel in North Bergen, N.J. Under Amtrak's proposed Gateway project, a new Hudson River tunnel will be built so the existing North River Tunnel under the Hudson can be repaired. Photo Credit: Amtrak

It’s rare that New York and New Jersey join in a new partnership on anything significant. But both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and outgoing Gov. Chris Christie know that there are few things more important to both states than the paths that connect them.

That’s why both governors — and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — are committing billions of dollars to build the Gateway train tunnel under the Hudson River. Now, it’s up to President Donald Trump and federal transportation officials to do the rest.

The existing century-old, two-tube rail tunnel under the Hudson plays host to 450 trains a day, nearly 300,000 Amtrak and NJ Transit passenger trips. The aged passage was damaged by superstorm Sandy, and experts say it’s just a matter of time before a tube fails. Lost power, broken signals or falling debris could make the tunnel unusable.

If that happens before a new one is built, it will halt traffic on the nation’s busiest rail route, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, as well as NJ Transit, creating regional economic paralysis we can’t even imagine. The stress on workers, productivity and the environment from greater road traffic would be enormous. The domino effect across the two states and beyond would be devastating.

Christie is partly responsible for putting us in this mess, since he killed a similar tunnel project in 2010. Now, it’s more expensive, but the two states plus the Port Authority are willing to spend $5.55 billion on it — nearly half the cost. By instituting a user fee on NJ Transit riders to pay for his state’s part, Christie could take the heat off incoming Gov. Phil Murphy, who supports Gateway but wouldn’t have wanted to start his term by having to find the money for it.

Trump’s initial budget proposed to cut Amtrak funding by 13 percent. But he continues to promise big spending on infrastructure, with proposals coming soon. There are few that could be more important than Gateway. This time, Trump should recognize that his home state’s needs will benefit the nation. Trump’s path to an infrastructure win goes through Gateway. It’s time to clear the tracks and build the tunnel. — The editorial board

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