Friday, September 08, 2017

Will Trump fund Gateway? Maybe

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, Railway Age
USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump. USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump. Associated Press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, along with 15 other elected officials from New York and New Jersey, met with President Donald Trump at the White House Sept. 7 to discuss the Gateway Project. Accounts of the meeting vary, but are somewhat positive.

Among the elected officials attending the meeting was Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who told WCBS 880 reporter Mike Smeltz that while Trump did not absolutely commit to funding Gateway, the meeting, in his opinion, was "positive."

"He said everyone there—the 17 elected officials from both New Jersey and New York—was able to lay out exactly why the project is critical not only for the region, but the country," Smeltz reported. "'I think the urgency was probably the most important part of the meeting, to get that point across, and I think he did understand it, yes,' Pallone said."

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) issued a statement saying Trump has promised much on infrastructure investment, but so far his promises have fallen flat. Booker said he would like to see the President "offer real investment in the Gateway Project, and not just words."

Gov. Cuomo, who could be running against Trump in the 2020 Presidential election as the Democratic Party's nominee, also released a statement about the meeting. Like Booker, he expressed mixed feelings.

"While the White House meeting was productive, it was inconclusive," Cuomo said. "The leaders from New York and New Jersey reiterated that construction of new passenger rail tunnels under the Hudson [River] is not only urgent, but critical for the entire Northeast region and long overdue. We confirmed our original agreement with the previous (Obama) Administration whereby the Port Authority [of New York and New Jersey] would finance 50% with user fees and the federal government would contribute 50%. I also affirmed that it was imperative the project would have to be done using design-build, like the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge*, which the President agreed was a success."

* The New Tappan Zee Bridge, also known as the New NY Bridge and officially named the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge after the late former governor Mario Cuomo (father of Andrew Cuomo), is a twin cable-stayed bridge being built to replace the current original Tappan Zee Bridge over New York's Hudson River. Construction began in 2013, and on Aug. 26, 2017, the westbound span officially opened to traffic. Both spans are expected to be operational by June 15, 2018.