New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx agreed to work together to obtain a “substantial” federal grant toward building a new tunnel under the Hudson River to Manhattan.
The duo, along with New Jersey’s U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, had a “substantive and productive meeting” on Tuesday in Newark about funding for the Gateway link, according to a joint statement. After the hour-long session, Christie declined to answer reporters’ questions.
“I showed up today, right?” Christie, 52, a second-term Republican running for president, said as he walked from Booker’s office to his own in an adjacent building.
Foxx on July 27 called for an urgent meeting with Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss the project, after equipment breakdowns caused a spate of delays for riders. In a statement, Cuomo said that Tuesday’s meeting was for “the New Jersey delegation and the federal government.”
“I am excited by the dialogue, and I am encouraged by the positive statement issued following today’s meeting,” Cuomo said. “It appears all parties are on the same page: the key to moving forward is obtaining federal grant support for the project.”
Amtrak, which owns the tracks used by New Jersey Transit, in 2011 proposed Gateway, a $16 billion link under the Hudson meant to ease Manhattan commuter congestion. The project stalled without financial commitments.
Both Christie and Cuomo have said they wouldn’t support Gateway without securing federal grants. On Aug. 7, Cuomo said the U.S. government had made an unacceptable offer of only a loan.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the project was “absolutely necessary” for the city’s future and he called upon both governors to pursue it.
“For folks to the west of the Hudson, there’s just not enough access to the city,” he said during a City Hall news briefing.
For Christie, the tunnel could require him to press Washington for more funding at the same time he’s seeking the Republican nomination. Any Gateway funding plan would need approval from the Republican-controlled Congress, which has been reluctant to back rail spending.
“New Jersey supports the Gateway project and is committed to developing a framework with the Federal government to begin it,” according to the joint statement. “We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties.”
Commuters in recent weeks have directed their frustrations with the delays at Christie, who killed a tunnel project in 2010, citing design issues and potential cost overruns.
Amtrak wants the federal government to foot 80 percent of Gateway’s cost, with New York, New Jersey and Amtrak paying the rest, according to Stephen Gardner, executive vice president for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor business development.
Menendez told reporters on his way into the meeting that he would press for more federal money under existing railroad and clean-air programs.