Port Authority Boss Wants Federal Dollars For Jersey Transit Tunnel

coscia Port Authority Boss Wants Federal Dollars For Jersey Transit TunnelFrom the Holland Tunnel to the Golden Gate Bridge, many a tunnel and bridge were built during times of economic distress, with the federal government throwing taxpayer dollars at public works to stimulate the economy.

So why not add a new $7.6 billion New Jersey Transit tunnel to the list?

That’s what the Port Authority thinks, anyhow, as its chairman Anthony Coscia today called on Congress to include money for the tunnel as part of a stimulus package that is expected to be negotiated in coming weeks. Mr. Coscia’s remarks came during a business symposium in Jersey City.

The project, a set of two tunnels and new platforms by Penn Station known as Access to the Region’s Core, is awaiting federal funding to the tune of $3 billion in order to move forward. The project, which already has $4.5 billion in funding from the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit, has wide support, including the backing of James Simpson, administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, which would fund the project.

One small problem: The FTA’s well of cash for such projects has run dry. It won’t likely be replenished for some time to come, leaving the near-term fate of the project uncertain.

Thus, Mr. Coscia seems to see opportunity knocking in the form of a stimulus package. Transit advocates and some in Congress have called for much of that stimulus to come in the form of dollars for infrastructure projects, as big public works create thousands of jobs.

“A federal economic stimulus package that includes ARC funding would allow us to get shovels in the ground in the first half of 2009 and get people to work as quickly as possible,” Mr. Coscia said in a prepared statement.