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New York - New York Governor Tours Aging Rail Tunnel In Funding Push

Published on: October 18, 2018 08:01 AM
By: AP
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Governor Cuomo Tours Gateway Tunnel in N Bergen NJ Governor Cuomo Tours Gateway Tunnel in N Bergen NJ

New York - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hoping video images of the decaying, century-old rail tunnel under the Hudson River will help resolve a funding impasse with President Donald Trump’s administration that has delayed construction of a new, $13 billion tunnel considered crucial to the region’s economic future.

The Democrat toured the tunnel with a video crew late Wednesday night and said he plans to send the footage to Trump.

“I actually think if anything is going to convince the President, seeing is believing,” Cuomo said. “He actually has a construction background, and I think if he sees the level of damage and he sees what we’re talking about, eroding steel, falling concrete, that he’ll see it in a different context — that it will strip away the politics and the rhetoric and the jockeying.”

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The tunnel is more than 100 years old and suffered saltwater damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that is eating away at sidewalls that house copper cables and electrical wires. Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, has estimated one or both of the tunnel tubes could fail in the next 10 to 15 years.

On Wednesday, Cuomo pointed to a hole in the sidewall where cables, piping, and metal rebar were flaking from the salt. When the salt damages the copper cables, it takes workers 12 to 14 hours to splice them back together. Much of that work is done overnight or on weekends, when one tube can be shut down without causing significant disruption to service.

Taking one of the tubes out of service for an extended time, however, would reduce peak period traffic by 75 percent, experts have said. That would have a ripple effect up and down the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston corridor where more than 700,000 people ride daily on Amtrak or several commuter lines, Amtrak has estimated.

A 2014 report by the Federal Railroad Administration estimated that the loss of rail service on the corridor for one day could cost nearly $100 million in impacts and productivity losses.

New York and New Jersey have committed to pay for half the cost of building a new tunnel using federal loans, with New Jersey proposing to pay back its share with fare increases and New York proposing to allocate money annually from its state budget over 35 years. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has committed roughly $2 billion.

But Trump administration officials have rejected the 50-50 agreement the states made with the Obama administration that would have the federal government pay for the other half, calling it “non-existent.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told a House committee in March that Trump was actively seeking to kill the tunnel project unless the states committed more money. And the Federal Transit Administration has downgraded the project’s rating from medium-high to medium-low, making it more difficult to compete with other projects around the country seeking federal dollars.

In several spots in the tunnel, entire panels of concrete are missing, leaving only thinning metal rebar. As water dripped down the walls Wednesday, puddles formed. When it gets cold enough, icicles grow from the roof. Chunks of cement can break off and fall onto the tracks below or threaten the electric cable running along the roof.

Last month, two commuter trains were disabled on a Friday night, stranding more than 1,000 travelers, when a piece of metal that connects the train to the overhead wires pierced the roof of one of the train cars. No injuries were reported.

“What’s really going on inside the tunnels is a toxic stew of sandy salt water, of normal water intrusion, of the metal corrosion that’s going on, and of the aging process of the cement,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton, who joined Wednesday’s tour. “There’s no way to stop it. The only way to address it is to rehab the entire tunnel.”



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Read Comments (3)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 18, 2018 at 10:38 AM grandbear Says:

For the richest country we have the worst mass transportation system., and no official cares to fix it.

2

 Oct 18, 2018 at 01:22 PM The_Truth Says:

$13 billion is just literally throwing money down the tube!
If they didn't have to pay off all the officials and line the pockets of all the red tape hierarchy, didn't have all the union mafia involved, then they could probably shave $12 billion off that price, and it would get funded a lot sooner.

3

 Oct 19, 2018 at 02:56 AM PaulinSaudi Says:

Our great-grandfathers build subway tunnels by the mile. We are not as good as they were.

4

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