RPA Challenges Some of Cuomo’s Gateway Assertions

The Rail Passengers Association has taken issue with some assertions made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding his idea to revise the Gateway Project in an effort to win support of the Trump administration.

RPA said Cuomo appears to be confused about some basic facts about the project and is glossing over some obstacles to his plan.

This includes a suggestion that the Trump administration could bypass the environmental review process for a proposed new tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan.

The review is well underway, RPA noted and is being led by New Jersey Transit and the Federal Railroad Administration.

It is waiting on the FRA to provide a final EIS and Record of Decision.

RPA also took issue with Cuomo’s suggestion that another entity be established to oversee the project with Amtrak being removed from the oversight process.

Noting that such an entity already exists in the form of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, RPA notes that the chair of the three-person GPDC board rotates among representatives from New York, New Jersey and Amtrak.

The state members, though, have the greatest say in overseeing the organization.

RPA said Cuomo’s questioning of a $13 billion estimate by Amtrak of the cost of boring and constructing the new tunnel failed to mention that this included the cost of the two new tunnels, as well as rehabilitation and modernization of the existing tunnels.

Also left unclear, RPA said, is whether removing Amtrak from a project management role would involve seizing Amtrak-owned right of way.

RPA said that although While Amtrak might be willing to relinquish control of the project to New York and New Jersey interest, the carrier is likely to resist any takings of its rights of way in New Jersey and Manhattan.

RPA CEO Jim Mathews said his group is pleased to see Cuomo inject a sense of urgency and provide new leadership for Gateway, but called for it to be based on a clear and accurate communication of facts to the public, and a transparent process for moving the project forward.

“We have clashed with Amtrak during the past year over its failure to communicate openly with its customers on the most difficult questions facing the network. This is a chance for all parties involved to do better,” Mathews said.

RPA said Cuomo is correct in suggesting that the Hudson River tunnels project is too big for New York and New Jersey to oversee on their own. The project will need federal funding to move forward.

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