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Tue November 03, 2015 - Northeast Edition
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) New Jersey’s transit agency formally agreed Oct. 14 to conduct environmental studies for a proposed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, a first step in what is expected to be a roughly 10-year effort to ease congestion on the New York metropolitan area’s railways and roads.
New Jersey Transit’s board approved the memorandum of agreement with Amtrak at its monthly board meeting. Amtrak will oversee preliminary engineering for the tunnel, part of the estimated $20 billion Gateway project that also includes expanding New York’s Penn Station and replacing a 105-year-old bridge in northern New Jersey.
“New Jersey Transit took an important step today, and with the continuing help of Gov. Christie, we are that much closer toward making this project a reality for the region,’’ U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an email.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have proposed that the federal government pick up half the tab and the two states and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pay for the other half.
An environmental analysis is required before the project moves to the construction phase. The study conducted by NJ Transit, which the agency expects will take three years, will focus on the area between Secaucus Junction and the existing tunnel.
NJ Transit next will put out requests for bids from consultants who will work on the environmental analysis. Amtrak will pay for the analysis and outside consultant, while NJ Transit will pay for its staff to manage the consultants. NJ Transit Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said Oct. 14 it is too early to estimate the costs to the agency.
A new tunnel is considered critical for the New York area. The existing tunnel, built more than a century ago, is already at capacity and is a source of regular delays. Additionally, Amtrak officials said last year that the tunnel’s two tubes will eventually have to be taken out of service to repair saltwater damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.