NJ Transit Touts Proposed Rail Tunnel as a Job Creator

Wed February 23, 2005 - Northeast Edition

NEWARK, NJ (AP) NJ Transit hopes to get its plan for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River on track, touting it as a job creator and time-saver for thousands of commuters.

A study released Feb. 9 said the proposed Trans-Hudson Express tunnel, known as the “THE,” would immediately double rail capacity into and out of New York, meet NJ Transit’s needs for at least 20 years, and help support development along the west side of Manhattan as well as in New Jersey.

There’s just one problem: Getting the $5 billion or so it would take to build it.

“The THE tunnel project fuels economic growth and wealth in the region as a whole — helping the economy of both New Jersey and New York,” said acting Gov. Richard J. Codey. “The most important benefit of the THE tunnel is the enhancement of regional competitiveness.”

The study said the tunnel would generate $10 billion in new economic activity in the region and add $480 million to its tax base over the next 20 years. It also projected 44,000 new jobs created in the region over the next decade because of the new tunnel, approximately 16,000 in New Jersey and 28,000 in New York.

Of those, it estimated, 7,450 would be created in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties; 4,400 in Middlesex, Somerset and Union; 2,150 in Morris, Sussex, Hunterdon and Warren; and 1,800 in Monmouth and Ocean.

“This study confirms just how vital it is for us to move forward in the construction of a second commuter rail tunnel to New York,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-NJ, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. “Our region’s economic health and our quality of life is tied tightly to this project. Getting more commuters off our roads and on to trains will lower emissions and result in cleaner air. Shorter commuting times will result in increased labor productivity and increased leisure time.”

Money to pay for the massive project is still not in place. The tunnel would extend two tracks to a new station under 34th Street in Manhattan between Sixth and Eighth avenues. Feb. 9’s study is part of a push to convince federal officials that the project deserves money in an era of shrinking government aid.

“The tunnel will have national benefits and should be a federal priority,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ.

The project is competing for money with a proposed rail link between Kennedy Airport and midtown Manhattan that New York Gov. George Pataki is pushing. That $6-billion project would receive $2 billion under President Bush’s budget.

A draft environmental impact study should be completed by this summer, said Rich Roberts, NJ Transit’s chief planner. A final statement should be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration a year after that.

If funding is approved, officials estimate that construction could begin in 2006 or 2007, and could be completed by 2014.

The proposed tunnel would begin just west of Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen and continue under Union City and Weehawken.