The $12 billion Hudson River Tunnel project has been reduced to a “political hostage in Washington” under the Trump administration, according to Jerry Zaro, a trustee for the Gateway Development Corp., the nonprofit tasked with overseeing the tunnel and ambitious overhaul of the region's transit system.
“The present administration is grasping for excuses to legitimize the denial of funds to this project, claiming that the use of federal loans … is somehow not skin in the same,” Zaro said Wednesday at the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Summit in Hasbrouck Heights.
Zaro was among other regional transit powerbrokers, including Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners, and Stephen Sigmund, Gateway’s chief of public outreach.
And the clock is ticking, added New Jersey Alliance for Action President Philip Beachem, given that New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th District, is retiring from Congress in January.
Frelinghuysen chairs the power House Appropriations Committee, which serves as one of the first gatekeepers for enacting federal appropriations every year.
“A new chairman will be appointed,” Beachem said. “It will probably be someone from the South or the West, and they will look at this project much different than Frelinghuysen.”
The Wednesday summit came days after the Port Authority made the case in a letter to the Federal Transit Administration urging it to include funding for the tunnel in its 2020 federal budget proposal.
Pending federal approval of funding, construction on the tunnel could begin as soon as mid-2019, according to the letter, which was written by PANYNJ Executive Director Richard Cotton.
At Wednesday’s summit, O’Toole declined to answer any questions about the letter, saying they’d be better answered by Gateway officials.
At a Secaucus press conference last week, Gov. Phil Murphy said the first phase of the multibillion dollar Gateway project, replacement of the 108-year-old Portal North Bridge, is "shovel-ready" pending federal funding.