Amtrak’s $20 billion rail improvement plan moves forward

By Colleen Wilson

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Following months of political back-and-forth, federal and state stakeholders have agreed on an approximately $20 billion funding and management plan to improve and expand on rail projects in New York and New Jersey. Funding sources for Amtrak’s Gateway Program, however, have not yet been obtained.

The Gateway Program is a variety of infrastructure projects developed by Amtrak to make repairs and expansions on sections of the railroad’s Northeast Corridor on both sides of and across the Hudson River.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak will cover at least 50 percent of the project’s cost with New Jersey and New York covering the rest. It is not clear how much the two states will individually contribute.

In addition to building a new train tunnel crossing the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey, Gateway Program planners have proposed the “Secaucus Loop,” which would allow New Jersey Transit trains to run directly between Rockland and Orange counties and New York City. Currently, west-of-Hudson commuters into Manhattan have to transfer trains in Secaucus or Hoboken.

The main point of contention for federal and state officials has been the project’s cost, which is estimated to reach about $20 billion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak will pursue money from a variety of sources including Amtrak Northeast Corridor profits and capital funds, as well as New Starts grants and federal loans through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement program and the Financing and Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act. The latter program loaned $1.6 billion to the New York Thruway Authority”s Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in 2013.

New York and New Jersey are also expected to also pursue federal loans, which they will be required to pay back.

The recent agreement also includes the formation of the Gateway Development Corp., the four-member body that will supervise the project. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will have two members, one from each state, and Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Transportation will each have a member.

The corporation is charged with developing a financing plan and overseeing the design, engineering and construction for the Gateway Program project.

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About the author

Colleen Wilson
Colleen is a graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She covers energy, transportation and state government for the Westchester County Business Journal.
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