Timeline of the Gateway Program
March 08, 2018 | Jeff Davis
[Updated March 8, 2018]
- October 2010 – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kills the $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project under the Hudson River between Secaucus Junction and a new station under 34th Street in Manhattan, a decision criticized by other local political leaders and eventually second-guessed by GAO. The ARC tunnel was to be used only by New Jersey Transit trains – it would not have connected to Penn Station and thus could not have been used by Amtrak trains trying to connect to the Northeast Corridor north of Manhattan.
- February 2011 – Amtrak’s FY 2012 budget request announces a new, $13.5 billion Northeast Corridor Gateway program: “It is intended to provide additional passenger rail capacity on the existing NEC route into and through Manhattan, and is needed to support Amtrak’s proposed Next Generation High Speed Rail program. This comprehensive program will reconstruct the railroad between Newark and Penn Station, expand the right of way from two to four tracks, build two new tunnels under the Hudson River, and develop Amtrak’s planned Moynihan Station on the site of the existing post office.” A separate presentation distributed by Amtrak shows proposed project maps.
- October 2014 – Amtrak announces that the damage from Almost-Hurricane Sandy will eventually require year-long closures of each of the two tubes of the existing North River Tunnel under the Hudson, necessitating the completion of a new tunnel before the repairs to the old tunnel can be made.
- August 2015 – Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx travels to Newark, New Jersey to meet with Senator Booker and Governor Christie to discuss Gateway. A joint statement is issued after the meeting which says, in part, “Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, and Governor Christie will work with Secretary Foxx to obtain a substantial Federal grant contribution toward the Hudson River tunnels. In addition to grants, we will also work on other funding and financing options.”
- September 2015 – After months of bickering, Governors Cuomo and Christie send President Obama a joint letter describing a new $20 billion Hudson River tunnel and stating “If the federal government will provide grants to pay for half of the cost of the project, the Port Authority, New York and New Jersey will take responsibility for developing a funding plan for the other half, convening all relevant agencies, and utilizing the proposed federal low-interest loan, local funding sources, and other funding strategies necessary to complement the federal grant commitment.”
- October 2015 – USDOT gives the Portal North Bridge project a $16 million TIGER grant.
- November 2015 – New York and New Jersey Governors and Senators issue a joint statement announcing that they had worked with USDOT and Amtrak and had “secured a commitment from both that their respective agencies would cover half of the total project costs. The federal share of funding for the project is likely to come from a combination of New Starts Grant dollars, Amtrak Northeast Corridor profits, Amtrak capital funds, annual appropriations, and other similar federal sources.” The agreement also calls for establishing a Gateway Development Corporation to pursue federal RRIF and TIFIA loans on behalf of New York and New Jersey. But USDOT never made any announcement confirming that alleged commitment.
- July 2016 – USDOT announces that both the Portal North Bridge and the Hudson Tunnel projects have been placed in the Project Development phase of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program (a.k.a. “new starts”) to allow the projects to begin incurring costs related to environmental review and engineering and design activities.
- September 2016 – Gateway partners submit a final funding rating package for the Portal North Bridge project to the Federal Transit Administration for approval, requesting FTA fund half of a $1.642 billion project. Project sponsors state, “If the project scores well, it will be included in the Department of Transportation’s recommendation for the President’s FY18 Budget.”
- November 2016 – The Gateway Program Development Corporation is formally established with a four-person Board of Trustees from New York, New Jersey, Amtrak and USDOT.
- December 2016 – Amtrak releases an economic benefit analysis of Gateway.
- January 2017 – The GPDC Board of Trustees holds its first meeting and approves a resolution authorizing the Corporation to request up to $6 billion in loans from USDOT. The Secretary of Transportation’s designee on the Board recuses himself.
- February 2017 – FTA gives the Portal North Bridge project a medium-high rating.
- March 2017 – President Trump’s discretionary budget blueprint calls for limiting FTA CIG program funding “to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only. Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
- May 2017 – The FTA submits its formal budget request for the CIG program for FY 2018 and it does not include the Portal North Bridge.
- June 2017 – The Gateway Corporation Board of Trustees authorizes a request for a $284 million RRIF loan for the Portal North Bridge project and authorizes the issuance of a Request for Information on the Hudson Tunnel Project. The Secretary of Transportation’s designee on the Board recuses himself from both votes. On June 30, USDOT sent a letter to to the Gateway Development Corporation withdrawing from the Board of Directors. (See more information on the withdrawal here).
- July 2017 – The House Appropriations Committee approves a Transportation-Housing appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 that includes $900 million for programs that, practically speaking, can only be accessed by the Gateway Program of projects. The Senate version of the bill does not contain any such funding. Meanwhile, a draft environmental impact statement for the Hudson River Tunnel portion of Gateway is released, in which the cost of the new tunnel (and repair of the old tunnel) has risen to $12.9 billion, which in turn caused the estimated cost of the entire Gateway Program to rise to about $30 billion, more than twice the original $13.5 billion estimate.
- September 2017 – During debate on an omnibus 2017 appropriations bill, the House rejects an amendment by Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) to strike the Gateway money from the bill by a vote of 159 yeas, 260 nays.
- December 2017 – Gateway project sponsors amend the financial plan for the Hudson River Tunnel. The Federal Transit Administration responds with a sharply critical letter that says, in part, “…your letter also references a non-existent ’50/50′ agreement between USDOT, NewYork, and New Jersey. There is no such agreement. We consider it unhelpful to reference a non-existent ‘agreement’ rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where 9 out of 10 passengers are local transit riders.”
- February 2018 – The Trump Administration’s fiscal 2019 budget once again requests no funding for any new mass transit Capital Investment Grant projects, including any of the Gateway projects. And the FTA’s annual report of funding recommendations lowers the project rating for the North Portal Bridge from “medium-high” to “medium-low” (because New Jersey changed the kinds of bonds they want to issue and the new bonds have not been authorized yet) and they also give the Hudson River Tunnel an initial overall rating of “medium-low” because of the lack of any short-term local funding. By law, a project with an overall rating of “medium-low” or “low” is not eligible to receive appropriations through the Capital Investment Grant program. According to the Washington Post, President Trump takes Speaker Ryan aside at a memorial service for the late Rev. Billy Graham to ask that no funding for Gateway be provided in the FY 2018 omnibus.
- March 2018 – Transportation Secretary Chao gets into a heated argument with New Jersey representatives at a House T&I hearing, saying of Gateway, “There’s no agreement. There’s never been an agreement. Secretary Foxx said at a political rally, in the heat of the campaign in 2016 that he was going to help. There’s no documentation. There’s no paperwork. And in fact, there’s no pending application” POLITICO reports that President Trump has privately threatened to veto the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill if Gateway funding is not removed, potentially shutting down the government.