Call it good timing.
While the bulk of federal stimulus money for transportation and infrastructure will likely go toward repair and renovation projects, one gigantic new construction project will also reap the rewards: New Jersey Transit’s $8.7 billion planned set of new rail tunnels under the Hudson River called Access to the Region’s Core (ARC).
The tunnels, which would create a new underground station just north of Penn Station, have been planned for decades and only in recent years has the funding begun to trickle in. As of this fall, the project was finishing environmental review and had local funding, but it was in need of $3 billion of federal money. While it had high reviews from the federal government, a key pot of federal money had run dry with little hope of it being replenished in at least the next year.
But, according to a joint release just put out by New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, along with U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, the stimulus is expected to trigger an additional $1.5 billion in available federal funding, enough to get the project started, assuming it, indeed, is awarded the money. After some pushing by the project’s supporters, the tunnels just last month received a “record of decision”—an approval, more or less—from the Federal Transit Administration. Jim Simpson, the previous FTA administrator who left late last year, called ARC “probably the most important public transportation project in the country.”
This is not likely to come as welcome news to the project’s detractors. Some transportation advocates criticize the tunnels’ failure to connect with the existing rail lines in Manhattan. The new station is welcome, but it does nothing for Amtrak, the groups say, which also would benefit from added capacity. Instead, Amtrak has indicated it will ultimately need an additional tunnel of its own under the Hudson, coupled with perhaps an expansion of tracks at Penn Station, all to come at a cost of many billions.