Tolls payable for the Hudson tunnel project


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The latest funding plan for a new Hudson River rail tunnel makes it clear that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority – not the state’s transit agency – will cover the state’s contribution to the much-sought-after project.

The updated financing plan for what is known as the Hudson Tunnel Project, released late last month, indicates that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will be responsible for New Jersey’s share in the tunnel project, now estimated at $ 1.6 billion.

The toll authority operates and collects tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. It recently increased tolls last year during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has also laid the groundwork for a series of automatic toll increases that will likely begin next year.

The updated financing plan for the tunnel project formalizes the cancellation of a deal that the former Govs have. Chris Christie from New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo from New York announced it several years ago.

NJ Transit passengers unhooked

This plan called for New Jersey’s contribution to the tunnel project to be funded by higher tariffs from New Jersey Transit users. He was immediately dismissed at the time by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who has refused to increase passenger fares since taking office in early 2018.

Late last month, Murphy – who is now running for a second term – approved the updated funding plan that officially calls for the use of toll road revenues to cover New Jersey’s contribution to the tunnel project.

“Our administration is proud to move the Hudson Tunnel project forward, bringing us very close to reorganizing and modernizing a key part of our regional rail and commercial rail infrastructure,” said Murphy’s spokesperson Michael Zhadanovsky. , in response to a request for additional comments.

The 10 billion dollar dig

“Since taking office, the governor has made it clear that NJ Transit customers are a top priority,” Zhadanovsky said. In total, the construction of a new trans-Hudson tunnel is now expected to cost around $ 10.1 billion, according to the new financing plan. Meanwhile, it will cost an additional $ 2.2 billion to rehabilitate the existing tunnel used by both NJ Transit and Amtrak, for a total expected cost of $ 12.3 billion.

The price of the tunnel works is up slightly from a year ago, but still lower than a projection of $ 12.7 billion released in 2017, the same year Christie and Cuomo announced the agreement to funding that called for higher fares for NJ Transit passengers to help pay for the project.

In addition to the funds that would come from the toll authority, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority and New York State have also pledged to make major local contributions to the tunnel project.

New York’s share of the expected cost is about $ 2.3 billion, and the port authority’s share is $ 2.2 billion, according to the financing plan. Local investments would initially be funded by federal loans that would eventually be repaid with funds pledged by New Jersey, New York and the Port Authority, according to the plan.

In addition to contributions from local partners, the new financing plan also calls for Amtrak to contribute $ 1.4 billion.

Tunnel project partners are also seeking $ 5.6 billion from the federal government’s investment grant program, according to the funding plan. A decision on that submission could come later this year, officials said.

A long time to come

The construction of the new trans-Hudson tunnel would take 8 and a half years, according to the latest plans. It will take another three years to completely rehabilitate the existing tunnel.

In explaining the role to be played by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the new financing plan underscored the “integrated nature of the New Jersey and area transportation system” and the “realization that any improvement that facilitates the use of transportation in common reduces the capital the expense burden on the toll highway and the promenade to increase the capacity of the roads.

The 133-page document also referred to the toll authority’s latest schedule for toll increases and included the potential for further toll increases beyond those that took effect last year.

“As of January 1, 2022, NJTA tolls will increase by 3% per year to provide a reliable source of funding in the future for toll highway and transit projects, such as the HTP,” according to the plan.

Earlier this year, the toll authority’s board of directors approved an agreement with the state’s Treasury Department that calls on the authority to help subsidize NJ Transit’s operations over a seven-year period.

A spokesperson for the toll authority did not respond to requests for comment on funding for the tunnel project, and a spokeswoman for NJ Transit referred all questions about the project to the governor’s office.

Show your age

Already over a century old, the existing Trans-Hudson Rail Tunnel was heavily damaged almost a decade ago when it was inundated by floodwaters during Super Storm Sandy.

While it is still safe to use, federal officials say it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the tunnel for daily rail traffic. Closing just one of the two tubes that carry traffic in and out of New York City for emergency repairs would reduce the number of hourly trips allowed during rush hour from 24 to six, officials said.

“Construction of the Hudson Tunnel project cannot begin soon enough for the thousands of NJ Transit customers who must continue to rely on the century-old tunnel on a daily basis,” said Balpreet Grewal-Virk, who represents New Jersey at the Bistate Gateway. Commission, in a statement released late last month.

The new financing plan for the tunnel project cites studies that document the role of rail in the wider Northeast Corridor region, which contributes around 20% of the country’s total gross domestic product. It also refers to the thousands of jobs that would be created in the region during the construction phase.

“The HTP provides long-term resilience, reliability and redundancy to the regional and national rail network and in doing so will bring substantial social, economic and environmental benefits,” according to the financing plan.

State laws passed in both New Jersey and New York provide for an equal distribution of the costs of regional infrastructure upgrades under proposals that have been dubbed Gateway by many project partners.

While current plans call for New York to contribute a bit more to the tunnel project than New Jersey, officials said New Jersey has already committed substantial funding for the replacement of the Portal Bridge, another infrastructure project. Gateway. Over a century old and subject to regular outages, the bridge spans the Hackensack River near Secaucus Junction station.

The financing plan for the tunnel project is reminiscent of how a previous trans-Hudson tunnel proposal – the one Christie finally canceled about a decade ago – was to be funded.

Known as the Heart of the Region Access, or ARC, this proposed tunnel project involved the use of $ 1.25 billion in toll authority resources to help finance construction costs. At the time, Christie voiced concerns about the potential for cost overruns and the impact they could have on a state budget still reeling from the Great Recession of 2007-2009. His administration ultimately used the resources of the toll authority to fund other road, bridge, and railroad projects across the state.

A statement issued in support of the new tunnel project by Build Gateway Now, a coalition of unions, planners, business groups and others, referred to delays and overcrowded trains which remain common occurrences for current trans-Hudsonian commuters.

“To make our region more competitive, resilient and get people back to work after the pandemic, we must seize this opportunity to finally build the country’s most urgent infrastructure project,” said Brian Fritsch, Coalition Campaign Director .

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