NEW YORK – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a press briefing on his meeting with President Trump last Thursday to discuss infrastructure priorities, including the Gateway Tunnel. Cuomo was joined by Richard Cotton, head of the Port Authority and Melissa DeRosa, who is the Secretary to the Governor. They accompanied Cuomo to Washington for the meeting with President Trump.
Cuomo said they met with President Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Chief of Staff John Kelly was in the room. The subject was the so-called Gateway Tunnels, the two tunnels that go from New York to New Jersey. They carry Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. They’re owned by Amtrak.
Cuomo said, “We discussed a number of topics, primarily around infrastructure. We discussed LaGuardia Airport and the President was very interested in LaGuardia, and the progress that we’ve made at LaGuardia, and the redesign of LaGuardia. And Rick Cotton, who is in charge of LaGuardia Airport and the reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport, and we discussed that. The President was interested in what is a real issue, which is the length of the runway at LaGuardia, which is a relatively short runway and has raised safety concerns before. And we discussed possible ways of lengthening that runway, which would be a very big project. In theory, once New York City vacates Rikers Island, which was supposed to have happened, you could extend a runway towards Rikers Island, but that was more on the hypothetical. The President said anyway that he could help, he would want to help.
“We discussed the Penn Station situation and the progress on the Post Office train station, the Empire Station, the Moynihan Train Hall, and that that was coming along and that would actually be online. We also discussed the tunnels that we had recently redone, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and how long it took to do those tunnels and how we did those tunnels.
“And then we discussed the Gateway Project. We provided some materials to the president. The Gateway Tunnel project includes, is really the construction of an entire corridor. It’s a $30 billion project because it has a number of projects that are attached, let me click ahead. This is the entire Gateway program. You can see that there are a number of bridges involved, there are track expansions involved. Two different bridges, Portal North, Portal South.
Secaucus Junction and Bergen Loop. New Jersey Railyard to be built. Penn Station expansion, which is a very large project, in and of itself, it basically constructs a new Penn Station next to the existing Penn Station. So, it is a massive undertaking that needs to be done. It would provide a much accelerated corridor from Newark through New York, and it would make a great difference, and I believe in the Gateway Project.
“The most urgent need, however, are the Hudson Tunnels because they have the longest lead time. If you were to start construction today, you have to complete an environmental review, you have to go to bid. If it was done in seven, eight, nine, ten years, that would be very, very fast. The remainder of the projects, you can do much faster than you can build the tunnel. So, I’m focused on the tunnels, number one from a safety point of view. Number two, if we lose one of those tunnels, just lose use of the tunnel, it will have a devastating impact and it is the long-lead item. You talk about construction projects, what’s the long-lead? The long-lead item here are the tunnels. Bridges, we know how to build. Track, we know how to lay, but the environmental and the construction of a tunnel is the long-lead item. So we were focused on the long-lead items.”