The Gateway project will modernize failing 100-year old infrastructure that 200,000 daily riders depend on today. It will double the capacity of the Northeast Corridor train line between Newark and New York City — an investment that will improve rail and freight mobility from Washington, D.C. to Boston and beyond.
Why is Gateway Urgent?
The infrastructure that links the entire Northeast Corridor is over 100 years old and badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Experts believe that it may need to be closed for urgent repairs at any time. A recent report from RPA estimates that the shutdown would cost the U.S. at least $16 billion in lost economic activity, $22 billion in lost home value, and cause slower commutes for nearly half a million commuters.
The current 110 year old one track in, one track out tunnel currently carries 450 trains and 200,000 passengers daily between New York and all points to the West and South, including the Northeast Corridor. The tunnel was inundated with seawater during Superstorm Sandy and is in urgent need of repairs.
If officials had to close even one of the tubes in the tunnel for emergency repairs it would throttle an already congested connection down further, reducing its capacity by 75%. This would shift tens of tens of thousands of more cars onto already congested highways and bridges, and force Amtrak passengers to switch to road or airplane. This would gridlock our regional economy. Since the vast majority of freight in our area moves by truck, tens of thousands of additional cars on area roads would gridlock the movement of goods up and down the East Coast. This would harm the regional economy, which is responsible for 20% of the nation’s GDP.
The shift of even a fraction of the 21,000 daily Amtrak passengers who rely on this tunnel to air traffic would impact air travel nationwide. A 2012 study showed that nearly ⅓ of all air traffic delays across the country originate from delays at airports in the New York metro area. Thousands of additional passengers flooding our already capacity constrained regional airports would gridlock the nation’s skies.
It took 14 months to repair the Minneapolis Bridge. It stands to reason that undertaking an emergency tunnel rehab may take much longer. In that timeframe employees may choose to leave jobs due to stressful commutes, employers may choose to relocate, causing more economic disruption.
Building Gateway isn’t just about preventing disaster. It’s also about enabling continued access to employment opportunities, especially for those who cannot afford or do not wish to live in the five boroughs. It’s about enabling continued growth for one of the most economically productive regions in the country. TransHudson travel is forecast to keep growing regardless of whether there is new investment or not. RPA predicts that work trips alone could increase by about 25% without needed transit investment, and could grow by as much as much as 80% by 2040 with improved transit and land use changes.
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What’s the Current Status of Gateway?
Portions of the Gateway program are already funded or underway. Early construction began in fall 2017 to replace the North Portal Bridge, and in mid-2018 New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the NJ Transit Board authorized the local portion of the funding for the full project, increasing the likelihood for the project to receive federal funds. Also in mid-2018 the Port Authority Port Authority agreed to assume the role of sponsor in applying for FTA-controlled monies that would finance a new tunnel under the Hudson River, this positions this portion of the Gateway program more favorably for federal funding as well. Two box tunnels are already complete beneath Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side that will connect Penn Station with the new cross-Hudson tunnel when it gets built. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Hudson River Tunnel is still forthcoming as of Fall 2018.
The Gateway Program is a series of repairs, replacements and expansions that will replace outdated infrastructure and create new capacity on a 10-mile segment of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line, between New Jersey and New York.
The first phase of the Gateway Program includes the construction of a new tunnel under the Hudson River, the rehabilitation of the existing tunnel, the completion of a concrete casing on the West Side of Manhattan to preserve right-of-way for the future tunnel to New York’s Penn Station, and the replacement of the Portal Bridge.
Later phases of the Gateway Program would include a second Portal Bridge South to double rail capacity in this heavily used section of the Northeast Corridor, the replacement of the Sawtooth Bridges located in Harrison, New Jersey, and the expansion and modification of Penn Station in New York, Newark Penn Station and Secaucus Junction Station (“Bergen/Secaucus Loop”) in New Jersey.
Portions of the Gateway program are already funded or underway. Early construction began in fall 2017 to replace the North Portal Bridge. Two box tunnels are already complete beneath Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West Side that will connect Penn Station with the new cross-Hudson tunnel when it gets built.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Hudson River Tunnel was submitted to the Federal government in under two years from the notice of intent to begin the process. As of Fall 2018 the Federal government had not issued a record of decision.
But further federal funding remains uncertain, putting this vital project at risk. The 200,000 riders who rely on the Hudson Tunnel every day need the federal government to be a partner in creating a 21st Century tunnel that contributes to the growth of the region and the nation.
Who is Build Gateway Now?
Build Gateway now is a coalition of civic, labor and business leaders who all know Gateway is a critical priority for the region and the nation’s economy. Join us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our coalition or to find out more.
Over 200,000 NJ Transit and Amtrak riders commute each weekday over bridges, track and through a tunnel that is over 110 years old. When the infrastructure falters, a train gets stuck in the tunnel or a signal failure leading to Portal Bridge remaining stuck open midday, tens of thousands of passengers are delayed. If it were to fail, passengers would be forced to switch to bus or car, costing money or time.
The Gateway project would provide modern infrastructure for riders, and increase capacity. This would provide more options for commuters and a more reliable, faster, safer, better commute.
Our region’s roads are consistently ranked among the nation’s most congested. If Gateway fails it would immediately shift hundreds of thousands of more people into cars and buses, making traffic even worse.
When Gateway is built, it will provide additional rail capacity making it easier and more attractive for at least some drivers to shift to transit, taking some of the pressure off of the roads.
The Regional Economy
Gateway is the single point of connection in a rail system that connects places representing 20% of our nation’s GDP. If the Hudson River Tunnel fails it will shift commuters into cars and buses, adding stress to the already gridlocked roadways, and slowing passage of freight (which is largely transported by truck in our region) to a crawl. Amtrak passengers who shift to air travel threaten to add delays not only to regional airports, but because ⅓ of the delays nationwide originate from our local airports, adding thousands of additional air travelers to New York area airports will have ripple effects across the nation.
Even if the tunnels were not on the verge of failure, they would still be a bottleneck, choking off regional growth. Over the past 25 years the number of daily commuters coming from NJ to Manhattan for work has grown by almost 30%. Rail trips in and out of Penn Station have nearly tripled in the last 25 years during that same period. Research indicates that this trend will continue over the next two decades. Our current system of trains, buses, subways, ferries and roads does not have enough capacity to serve another 72,000 — let alone another 150,000 — commuters every day. Gateway will add much-needed new capacity, enabling continued growth west of the Hudson and access to employees for businesses in Manhattan, the heart of the region’s economy.
What is “Crosstown”?
Regional Plan Association is advocating to design the Gateway program to allow for the possibility of through-running service, “Crosstown”, instead of having it dead-end at Penn Station. Extending the tracks to Sunnyside Yards in Queens would provide tremendous benefit to the region by providing travelers with direct crosstown service between New Jersey and Long Island, and greatly increase the efficiency of train movements—increasing capacity across the Hudson River by 30 percent and across the East River by 68 percent.
It is essential that the designs for the Gateway program do not cut off this opportunity for future growth. Work can then be phased in as funding becomes available.
Regional Plan Association One Whitehall St, 16th Floor New York, NY 10004
Regional Plan Association is an independent, not-for-profit civic organization that develops and promotes ideas to improve the economic health, environmental resiliency and quality of life of the New York metropolitan area. We conduct research on transportation, land use, housing, good governance and the environment. We advise cities, communities and public agencies. And we advocate for change that will contribute to the prosperity of all residents of the region. Since the 1920s, RPA has produced four landmark plans for the region, the most recent was released in November 2017. For more information, please visit www.rpa.org or fourthplan.org.