December 15, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The Association for a Better New York (ABNY) hosted a panel on Monday, December 12, on the Gateway Program, where a progress update was given and a discussion held with U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (NY), Robert Menendez (NJ) and Cory Booker about the project.
The discussion was moderated by Tom Wright, President, Regional Plan Association and also featured Scott Rechler, Chairman and CEO, RXR Realty, and Anthony Coscia, Chairman of the Board of Amtrak. ABNY is a non-profit organization, a coalition of business, labor, non-profit and political leaders that addresses the growth and renewal of New York City’s people, businesses and communities. It has more than 300 member organizations, including the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
The estimated $23 billion Gateway Project will expand and renovate the rail line that runs between Newark, New Jersey and New York City. According to Amtrak, the program will “increase track, tunnel, bridge, and station capacity, eventually creating four mainline tracks between Newark, NJ, and Penn Station, New York, including a new, two-track Hudson River tunnel.” The original tunnels and bridges were built over a century ago, as well as suffering major damage due to Hurricane Sandy.
Anthony Coscia, Chairman of the Board, Amtrak, said at the event, “The infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. We have a plan to deal with the significant challenges ahead. We are faced with not only crisis, but increased opportunity. The Gateway program can lay the foundation for these opportunities.” He mentioned one of the benefits as being “shovels in the ground,” and said that there would be a high volume of construction jobs as a result. Stephen Gardner, Executive Vice President, Amtrak, said Penn Station train and passenger volumes had doubled since 1976, and that it was the busiest rail station in North America. He also pointed to the large growth of the labor market in New Jersey, and the high volume of commuters from New Jersey into New York. “The huge growth on the Far West Side depends on expanded transit access,” he said. A recent Cost Benefit Analysis proves, he said, that “The benefits of the Gateway program exceed the costs.”
Senator Schumer also referred to the growth on the West Side of Manhattan, and said, “I’m a growth guy – I like to see cranes and employment.” “Manhattan is booming, and people want to live and work here,” he added. He said that without the transit to support that growth, it would have nowhere to go. He called Gateway “Huge in terms of economic development – without it there will be devastating consequences,” such as recession.
Scott Rechler said, “In the 21st century talent is the most important – we have to attract and maintain it. The challenge is having the capacity of infrastructure and transportation, and affordable housing for the young professionals, and office buildings. The Gateway tunnel would provide a way to conveniently go to work and get there on time.
Senator Booker said, “We’re at a crisis. The problems of commuting in and out of New York have grown. There is no more critical infrastructure project [than Gateway].” He added, “We are on track, however.”
Senator Menendez added, “On this project, the stakeholders are all aligned – the States of New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority, the Federal Government, New Jersey transit, Amtrak, and others.” “The alignment, and the commitment to stick with it, are incredibly important to the project’s success,” he said.
The project was described by Senator Booker as “being on the President’s dashboard,” meaning it has a high priority. Senator Schumer added that President-elect Trump’s reaction will be “the first test” of the new administration. “Trump says he wants a major infrastructure bill. We need to fund this program. We need federal expenditures, not just tax breaks for developers. This has to be a focus of the new Secretary of Transportation.”