Gov. Andrew Cuomo once claimed that the dilapidated Amtrak shaft carrying commuters under the Hudson River from New Jersey into Manhattan was “not my tunnel” when the federal government asked to put up state cash toward its repair—but today he insisted that the “Gateway” project to refurbish the tube and construct a parallel conduit for trains is “desperately needed,” and demanded President Donald Trump honor his predecessor’s commitments to funding it.
Cuomo initially resisted the former President Barack Obama’s push to have New York kick in funds for the modernization of the existing infrastructure, which suffered flooding during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and for the creation of a new sister passage. However, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—which Cuomo co-controls with Garden State Gov. Chris Christie—and the federally-run Amtrak each eventually agreed to kick in $35 million to begin planning and construction.
But it is unclear whether Trump will support the project’s completion, the full cost which is as yet known, despite the chief executive’s promises to revitalize America’s transportation networks.
“This is a project fits all the criteria that President Trump talks about,” Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the opening of a new Long Island Rail Road entrance. “Everyone put up their hand and pledged their support, we need it desperately, and we can’t talk about this for five years or six years or seven years, because literally we don’t have the time.”
The governor argued the project has a 10 year timetable and a $20 billion budget, and warned the existing structure could collapse during that period.
“The tunnels are in such a state of disrepair, I’m not even sure they’re going to make it 10 years,” he said. “So let New York and our federal leaders and our state leaders who are here today, let’s take this rhetoric and turn it into reality.”
This expression of urgency contrasts with Cuomo’s comments in August 2015, when he appeared to dismiss the proposed project as somebody else’s problem.
“It’s not my tunnel,” Cuomo said at a press conference that summer. “Why don’t you pay for it? It’s not my tunnel. It is an Amtrak tunnel that is used by Amtrak and by New Jersey Transit.”
Trump’s infrastructure proposal involves relatively little direct public investment, leaning instead on tax credits and toll-charging rights for private companies that sink cash into shoring up roads, tunnels and bridges. This has earned him criticism from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who also appeared at today’s press conference.
Cuomo has engaged in a running feud with Amtrak, which owns Penn Station and leases several concourses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the city subway system and the LIRR. The federal train network intends to rehabilitate the crumbling tracks and platforms during a six-week period this summer—which the governor has insisted is too long and too disruptive.
Last week, Cuomo went so far as to order the MTA board, which he appoints, to cut off rent payments to Amtrak during the reconstruction.
The governor has also come under increasing criticism for his emphasis and investment in transit systems that service suburban commuters, while the city’s train system has seen a mounting number of delays and breakdowns.