Infrastructure meltdown?

14 Jun 2017 

Projects like Gateway could bring many of new buyers and renters to North Jersey, but funding remains a giant question mark.

New Jerseyans commuting to and from Penn Station this summer may begin to question the value of living in the prized neighborhoods that bill themselves as “convenient” to New York City.  Two train derailments within 11 days this spring — one of which forced the closure of eight of Penn Station’s 21 aging tracks, creating a ripple of delays for Jersey and Long Island commuters alike — finally brought an urgency to the transit hub’s long-deteriorating condition. Amtrak announced that several tracks out of Penn will be closed over the summer for repairs, and commuters are bracing for major delays.

But just three blocks west of there, weeks after the highly publicized April 3 derailment, Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia waxed optimistic about the rail line’s expansion.  

Standing inside the LIRR storage facility in Hudson Yards, Coscia — hard hat and all — pointed to the ground. Seventy-five feet beneath him, he told a group of reporters, the construction of two single-track rail tubes was underway — the first phase of the beleaguered Gateway tunnel project.

“I’m not at all upset about commuters who are upset. They should be upset,” Coscia told  The Real Deal.

But angry commuters and piecemeal track repairs are the least of his problems. Gateway’s project partners, which include the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit, have secured only a fraction of the $20 billion needed in funding. The federal government’s contribution remains in question, since it’s unclear whether President Obama’s approval of the project will be rubber-stamped by the Trump administration.

Gateway is by far New Jersey’s most important infrastructure project, experts say. Beyond connecting commuters to their work, “Gateway will have a monumental effect on North and Central New Jersey, because what it’s doing is preserving the economic value of those areas,” said Martin Robins, who helped shape the New Jersey Transit system and is the founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.
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