- Published: 20 April 2017
- Written by John Bobsin
US Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a press conference on Wednesday, April 19, at Newark's Penn Station to demand government action on new tunnels under the Hudson River. The event was reported by Claude Brodesser-Akner for NJ Advance Media and printed in the Star-Ledger (April 20). The politicians challenged President Trump to send his Secretary of Transportation to inspect the 100-year-old existing tunnels, which were damaged by flooding from Hurricane Sandy more than four years ago, and have been described as "decrepit." Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, has warned that they will have to be shut down, one track at a time; if new tunnels are not built before this becomes necessary, restricting travel to one tunnel at a time would cripple peak hour commuter rail service, which requires both of the existing tunnels to function. The tunnels carry about 85,000 riders a day; some studies have warned that loss of one tunnel would reduce capacity by about 75%. "We have reached a point of unacceptability for New Jersey, (for) America," said Booker. "We must have a firm commitment to replace these tunnels. . . . We are teetering every day on the brink of a traffic Armageddon." For his part, Gov. Christie said that "I've already spoken to the President about this. The President is well aware of my point of view on this project, and I will absolutely continue to speak my mind on this, both publicly and privately." Christie said he was confident that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao would visit the tunnels. Despite the apparent dedication of both politicians to the project, reporters were quick to point out that Gov. Christie cancelled a previous tunnel proposal, the ARC project, years ago, and that if he had not, the ARC tunnels might have been available as early as next year.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that Gov. Christie was right to cancel the ARC project, which we believe had fatal flaws; but the lack of progress since is unforgivable. The Coalition believes that the main focus should be on at least one new tunnel, and that construction should begin immediately, in hopes to avoid a transportation disaster. The much bigger project being currently proposed, called "Gateway," goes far beyond new tunnels to include expansion of New York Penn Station and other features; while these might be desirable in the long term, the larger project is probably unaffordable in the current political climate, and focusing on it tends to obscure the need for new tunnels, now.