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Two-state deal on train tunnel is a breakthrough

A rendering of the Gateway Program to build

A rendering of the Gateway Program to build a new Hudson River tunnel. Credit: Amtrak

Could it be?

Could someone actually be turning attention and money to . . . wait for it . . . trains and train tunnels?

For the Gateway Project tunnel between New York and New Jersey, it's two someones -- Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.

Both finally are recognizing just how important this particular piece of infrastructure is. They're offering to pay half the cost of a new rail tunnel between their states, a link critical to the entire Northeast, and asking the federal government to pony up the other half. That's a significant ask for a project costing up to $20 billion.

But if the project isn't done, the price tag would be far larger. A shutdown of the existing tunnel could paralyze Amtrak's essential Northeast Corridor -- the busiest railroad in the nation. The economic impact could be devastating. Add on NJ Transit, which averages 90,000 boardings a day into and out of Penn Station, and the ripple effect grows.

The current push comes five years after Christie rejected federal funds for a similar tunnel, citing potential cost overruns. After delays on NJ Transit this summer, Christie changed his mind. Cuomo eventually came on board, even after shirking responsibility last month.

Getting a new rail tunnel is going to take lots of time. Christie and Cuomo must put this project on a fast track. The federal government has to commit the other half of the funding, and help make it happen.

This week's LIRR derailment shows the need for more attention to our rail system. State and NYC officials must fully fund the MTA capital plan so preparation for a third track, which would have prevented the LIRR delays, can get up to speed.