Cuomo: U.S. Loan Offer for Amtrak Tunnel Isn’t Acceptable

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the federal government’s offer of only a loan to revive work on Amtrak’s stalled Gateway tunnel project under the Hudson River is unacceptable.

In a letter sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Friday, Cuomo said a loan in which debt service starts in year six of the 12-year, $14 billion project isn’t viable for New York, New Jersey or the Port Authority, which runs bridges and tunnels in the region.

“The Port and the states cannot shoulder this massive financial burden,” Cuomo wrote. “It is simply not appropriate for Amtrak and the federal government to look to the states and the Port Authority to bear the large financial burden of an Amtrak asset that has fallen into disrepair through lack of Amtrak investment over decades.”

The two existing 100-year-old tubes below the Hudson River, key to rail service from Washington to Boston, are at capacity. Damaged by Hurricane Sandy flooding in 2012, they have fewer than 20 years of service left, Joseph Boardman, chief executive officer of Amtrak, said last year.

Last month, New Jersey Transit suffered at least five days of delays for Manhattan commuters. It blamed failures of equipment owned by Amtrak, the national passenger rail company that operates the tracks used by the commuter railroad.

“The state of New Jersey and New York are committed to ensuring their taxpayers will not be forced to cover the cost of the project in the absence of significant federal funding,” said Nicole Sizemore, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in an e-mail.

The Transportation Department is working with Amtrak to find money to build the Gateway tunnels, Foxx has said.

Christie, a 52-year-old Republican running for president, in 2010 canceled a $12.4 billion tunnel project known as ARC, or Access to the Region’s Core, citing design issues and potential cost overruns. The biggest planned U.S. infrastructure project at the time, ARC would have doubled peak rail service to Manhattan.

The cancellation of ARC allowed Christie to redirect $1.25 billion to plug transportation budget holes, paying for road and bridge projects. It also enabled him to avoid raising the gasoline tax, among the nation’s lowest, before his presidential bid.