New Jersey-New York leaders talk Hudson tunnel with Trump

The White House on January 6, 2016 as President Obama starts selling his gun control reforms to the public. (Courtesy: Chance Seales)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Top officials from New York and New Jersey traveled to the White House Thursday to make a pitch to President Donald Trump for a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River — considered to be one of the region’s most critical infrastructure needs.

The meeting between Trump and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey also included several members of the two states’ Congressional delegations.

The $13 billion tunnel project is key to plans for addressing aging infrastructure and growing congestion in the New York City area. The price tag also includes renovations for the existing, century-old rail tunnel that carries Amtrak and commuter trains from New Jersey into the city.

No decisions were announced Thursday but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who arranged the meeting, said it went well.

“We made a strong pitch,” said Schumer, D-New York, told The Associated Press. “It was a good meeting. He (Trump) said he was favorably disposed. … I am very hopeful and optimistic.”

Past proposals to build a new tunnel have run into funding problems. Supporters of the project hope Trump, a Republican, agrees to honor the pledge of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, whose administration said it would pay for half of the work. Under that arrangement, the two states would each split the other half.

“While the White House meeting was productive, it was inconclusive,” Cuomo said in a statement emailed to reporters. “The leaders from New York and New Jersey reiterated that construction of new passenger rail tunnels under the Hudson is not only urgent, but critical for the entire northeast region and long overdue.”

New Jersey Republican Rep. Leonard Lance described the president as “very engaged and very interested.”

“The point was made to the president that this is critically important not only to the region but to the whole country,” Lance said.

The tunnel is part of a larger overhaul and expansion of rail infrastructure known as the Gateway Program that has a total estimated cost of $30 billion.

Trump has vowed to make infrastructure a priority, a proposal cheered by many officials from New York and New Jersey, from both political parties. On Thursday a White House official called the meeting productive and said the president remains committed to modernizing the nation’s infrastructure.

Each day, 200,000 passengers use the existing, 110-year-old tunnel, which has a single track in two tubes, one for either direction. Amtrak officials have predicted that within 20 years they will have to shut down one tube for a year for repairs that would reduce the total number of trains using the tunnel from 24 to 6 per hour at peak times. That would put pressure on other commuting options while disrupting the entire Northeast Corridor, which is used by 750,000 passengers daily in eight states.

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