Feds, Amtrak agree to pay for half of NYC rail tunnel

The Department of Transportation and Amtrak have agreed to pay half the cost of building a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey.

The agency and the railway are committing to paying 50 percent of the expenditure of the new train tunnel, which is projected to cost about $20 billion to build. The new tunnel proposal is known as the Gateway Project. 

New York and New Jersey will provide the rest of the funding under the agreement, which was hatched amid mounting delays on busy Amtrak and commuter rail routes in the Northeast.

Lawmakers from both sides said the new rail tunnel would relieve train congestion in the Northeast, where rail travel is immensely popular. 

“This agreement is a significant step forward for the Gateway project, which because of the current tunnel’s deteriorating condition and growing demand is among our nation’s most important infrastructure projects," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement. 

"The century-old rail tunnels under the Hudson River are antiquated and this agreement is an important step towards averting a potentially disastrous situation for millions of commuters and our entire region's economy," Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMusic streamer Spotify joins Gillibrand’s push for paid family leave Gillibrand proposes sexual assault reforms for Merchant Marine Academy Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs MORE (D-N.Y.) added. "The Gateway tunnel is a long overdue solution to our ailing infrastructure and this agreement moves us closer to ensuring our long-term economic growth and relieving mounting congestion along the Northeast Corridor."

Train tunnel problems in the region have emerged as a political issue for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as he runs for president. Transportation advocates have blamed Christie's cancelation of an earlier train tunnel for rail delays that have plagued New Jersey commuters this summer. 

Killing the earlier tunnel proposal, known as the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) project, was one of Christie's first high-profile decisions following his 2009 surprise election win over then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.

The earlier project was proposed to cost $8.7 billion, but it faced cost overruns. When Christie canceled it, the price tag was up to $11 billion. 

Christie allies also point out that the first tunnel proposal would not have carried trains directly to New York's Penn Station, which is home to Amtrak and many commuter railways.

Amtrak officials have identified expanding train capacity between New Jersey and New York as one of the company's most pressing needs. They have put forth the Gateway Project as a new proposal to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River to double the train capacity between New Jersey and New York.

Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have said they are willing to pay for half of the construction of a new tunnel between their states if the federal government picks up the rest of the tab. 

"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," the governors wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in August. 

"This funding framework is comparable to previous structures proposed for a new tunnel,” they added.