Cuomo’s Gate­way Sales Pitch

The Bond Buyer - - Front Page - By brian tumulty

– New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo said Wed­nes­day that Pres­i­dent Trump was “re­cep­tive” to a new pitch he de­liv­ered for a con­struct­ing a new pas­sen­ger rail tun­nel con­nect­ing Man­hat­tan and north­ern New Jersey that would bid the project in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“He said, ‘I am re­cep­tive. I am look­ing for a way to move for­ward,’” Cuomo told re­porters in New York af­ter meet­ing pri­vately with Trump ear­lier in the day for lunch at the White House.

Trump of­fi­cially didn’t budge from his non-sup­port for fed­eral as­sis­tance in con­struct­ing the new pas­sen­ger rail tun­nel un­der the Hud­son River.

But the pres­i­dent ini­ti­ated the re­quest for the lun­cheon meet­ing af­ter Cuomo last month sent Trump a five-minute video show­ing the leak­ing walls and in­te­rior de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the ex­ist­ing 108-year-old tun­nel.

“If the pres­i­dent wasn’t in­ter­ested and wasn’t moved by the video, why have the meet­ing?” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, asked re­porters.

The tun­nel is owned by Am­trak and not by New York, Cuomo em­pha­sized in the video and dur­ing his new con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

“The state doesn’t own it,” Cuomo told re­porters. “The state doesn’t run a train that goes through it.”

Am­trak and NJ Tran­sit are the tun­nel’s two main users.

U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Elaine Chao joined Trump at the lunchtime meet­ing.

“The group dis­cussed a num­ber of im­por­tant top­ics, fo­cus­ing on in­fra­struc­ture,” the White House said in a state­ment af­ter­ward. “The pres­i­dent cares deeply for his home state of New York and al­ways ap­preWASHINGTON

ciates the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with the gov­er­nor on is­sues im­por­tant to the state and re­gion.”

Cuomo said he dis­cussed how New York suc­cess­fully re­placed the Tap­pan Zee Bridge fur­ther north on the Hud­son River us­ing a sim­i­lar de­sign-build bid­ding process that re­warded the con­trac­tor for fin­ish­ing the project ahead of sched­ule.

He also sug­gested to Trump that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the states of New York and New Jersey form a three-mem­ber board to over­see the tun­nel project. They also dis­cussed the re­design of La­Guardia Air­port and pos­si­ble ways to ex­tend the length of the run­way.

The new tun­nel is es­ti­mated to cost $11.1 bil­lion with the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the ex­ist­ing two tubes cost­ing an­other $1.6 bil­lion af­ter the new tun­nel is put into ser­vice.

Cuomo, how­ever, said the ac­tual cost won’t be known un­til the project is put out to bid, not­ing there are some Eu­ro­pean com­pa­nies that are us­ing new bor­ing tech­nol­ogy.

New York and New Jersey of­fi­cials al­ready have been wait­ing 29 months for fi­nal fed­eral ap­proval of an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment for the pro­posed tun­nel.

“We are nowhere right now,” Cuomo said. “There is no clock tick­ing be­cause there is no clock.”

Cuomo said New York is pre­pared to pay $3.25 bil­lion as its max­i­mum share of the over­all cost. New Jersey would con­trib­ute a sim­i­lar amount.

The Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jersey along with Am­trak are cur­rent part­ners.

Chao ear­lier this year dis­missed the fi­nanc­ing plan by New York and New Jersey by say­ing their com­mit­ment to re­pay fed­eral loan guar­an­tees should not count as a lo­cal share. She has de­scribed the lo­cal com­mit­ment as only 5% of the over­all cost of the new tun­nel.

As a re­sult, the tun­nel project has re­ceived a rat­ing of only “medium-low” from the Fed­eral Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion on its an­nual list of projects need­ing fed­eral fund­ing un­der the Cap­i­tal In­vest­ment Pro­gram.

Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn. who is one of the project’s big­gest sup­port­ers in Con­gress, said Wed­nes­day that Trump should be a backer of the new tun­nel.

“The pres­i­dent knows about con­struc­tion,” Blu­men­thal said. “He should rec­og­nize that if you don’t build it right, it sim­ply will fall apart. And in this case, a tun­nel fall­ing apart is go­ing to do crip­pling eco­nomic dam­age to the na­tion. Re­ally it’s a na­tional dis­grace that it has been per­mit­ted to de­te­ri­o­rate as it has.”

Ex­tended delays in con­struct­ing the tun­nel for pas­sen­gers us­ing NJ Tran­sit and Am­trak’s North­east Cor­ri­dor in­creases the pos­si­bil­ity that the ex­ist­ing tun­nel could close be­fore the new one is ready, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

The Gate­way Pro­gram De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, a non-profit cor­po­ra­tion rep­re­sent­ing Am­trak and the two states, on Tues­day marked the 108th an­niver­sary of rail ser­vice through the 1910 tun­nel built by the Penn­syl­va­nia Rail­road to high­light the need for up­dat­ing it.

The North River Tun­nel, as it is called, has two rail tubes that are used daily by 200,000 Am­trak and NJ Tran­sit pas­sen­gers.

Cuomo’s video points out the two tubes were orig­i­nally dropped onto the river bed en­cased in cast iron that is now cov­ered by 20 feet of silt.

The New York civic ad­vo­cacy group Com­mon Good es­ti­mates the de­lay in con­struct­ing a new tun­nelis adding $1.7 bil­lion an­nu­ally in lost op­por­tu­nity costs and ad­di­tional con­struc­tion costs to the larger Gate­way De­vel­op­ment project, which in­cludes a new Por­tal North Bridge in New Jersey.

New Jersey an­nounced in July it was sub­mit­ting a new ap­pli­ca­tion for fi­nanc­ing $1.6 bil­lion new Por­tal North Bridge over the Se­cau­cus River that in­creases the lo­cal cost share at al­most half of the over­all cost and asks for an $811 mil­lion fed­eral grant pay for the re­main­der.

New Jersey plans to use $600 mil­lion in state-ap­pro­pri­a­tion backed bonds, cap­i­tal fund­ing from the NJ Trans­porta­tion Trust Fund and other ex­ist­ing lo­cal sources.

The bond is­sue was au­tho­rized over the sum­mer by the New Jersey Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity and the NJ Tran­sit Board of Di­rec­tors.

In ad­di­tion, the con­struc­tion cost of the bridge has been re­duced $160 mil­lion by con­sol­i­dat­ing pro­posed con­tracts to one.

The new bridge is ex­pected to re­place a move­able turntable-style bridge built in 1910.

The pro­posed re­place­ment will be high-level fixed span over the Hack­en­sack River that would be ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing NJ Tran­sit and Am­trak trains at speeds of up to 90 mph.

NJ Tran­sit’s fed­eral ap­pli­ca­tion in­cludes a re­quest for 25 two-level train cars that will in­crease rush hour pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity by 10%.

The re­vised fi­nanc­ing plan for the rail bridge is free­ing up $284 mil­lion that the Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jersey had planned to chip in. Over­all the Port Au­thor­ity has a $2.7 bil­lion cap­i­tal plan for the Gate­way project.

“The pres­i­dent cares deeply for his home state of New York and al­ways ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with the gov­er­nor on is­sues im­por­tant to the state and re­gion,” ac­cord­ing to a White House state­ment.

Gov. An­drew Cuomo last month sent Trump a five-minute video show­ing the leak­ing walls and in­te­rior de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of an ex­ist­ing tun­nel.

Pres­i­dent Trump of­fi­cially didn’t budge from his non-sup­port for fed­eral as­sis­tance in con­struct­ing the new pas­sen­ger rail tun­nel un­der the Hud­son River.

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