NJTPA Update Blog

September 2022

Gateway Critical To Region's Future

Posted: 9/19/2022 12:17:01 PM

Kolluri-Kris.pngBuilding two new Hudson River rail tunnels and rehabilitating the existing two tunnels will help meet the region’s needs “for the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years and 100 years – that's why this project is so important,” said Kris Kolluri, CEO of the Gateway Development Commission, during a presentation at the September 12 Board of Trustees meeting.

Kolluri noted that a report by the Regional Plan Association projects demand for the transit system on the Northeast Corridor is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in very short order.

While the cost of the project has gone up by an estimated $2 billion to $16.1 billion, Kolluri is hopeful the state and federal government can work together to bring the cost back down.

“The best way we can realize savings is to make sure there are no further delays to this project” Kolluri said. For every day that Gateway is delayed, he estimated the cost of the project rises $1.3 million to $1.5 million. New Jersey’s Congressional delegation recently sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging federal support for advancing the project.

Kolluri, who took the helm of the Gateway Development Commission in July, listed three reasons for the importance of the Gateway project:
  • It’s a regionally significant project, with the regional gross domestic product (GDP) contributing about 20 percent of the nation’s GDP on an annual basis.
  • It’s a huge mover of people through the region. “Without this system properly functioning, and able to function for the 21st Century, we will not be able to maintain our primacy as a region,” he said. 
  • It has the support of every elected official on both sides of the Hudson River and in Washington, D.C., and has been two decades in the making. “Everybody understands that this project is the fulcrum for the entire Northeast Corridor and without this project we’re not going to be able to maintain a viable rail network up and down the Northeast Corridor,” Kolluri said.
A self-proclaimed “big believer in plans, not just deadlines,” Kolluri said the next 60 to 90 days will be focused on staffing the Gateway Development Commission and getting it running; working with federal partners to develop a risk assessment profile to move ahead with engineering; and, then eventually enter into a full funding grant agreement sometime in late 2023 or early 2024 so construction can begin.

The day after his appearance before the NJTPA Board, the Commission voted to officially become sponsor of the Hudson Tunnel Project, with an $11-million budget and authority to apply for federal funding.

Gateway Program OverviewThe construction schedule for the new tubes and rehabilitation projects runs from about summer/fall 2024 to 2038. The plan is to build the two new tubes first, with completion estimated for 2035, then renovate the two existing tunnels one at a time. He said that is the most efficient and cost-effective plan and the commission is working closely with NJ TRANSIT and the Port Authority to keep to that schedule and possibly shave off some time.

Stephen Sigmund, Chief of Public Outreach for the Gateway Development Commission, told the Board that following that plan would ensure there are always three tubes in and out of New York City, and once the project is completed, four tubes.

“There will be never fewer than two, and that’s the most important thing,” he said. Three-quarters of volume into and out of Manhattan would be slashed if the number of tunnels were cut from two to one, impacting $16 billion in economic activity and $22 billion in property values and $20 billion in taxes in New York and New Jersey. “When you talk about the costs of this, the costs of not doing it are much higher than doing this,” he said.

NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, thanked Kolluri for the update and said the Board looks forward to seeing the project advance. “Getting this work done sooner than later is going to be to everyone’s benefit, economically as well as practically,” Bartlett said.