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Gateway Tunnel funding may cause another budget showdown for feds

As published by Emily Nonko in Curbed

Things still do not look good for the Gateway Tunnel project, the $13 billion plan to replace the deteriorating Amtrak tunnels below the Hudson River. Since President Donald Trump took office, it’s been unclear whether his administration would honor a funding deal worked out by New York, New Jersey, and former President Obama. And now, it appears that Gateway could cause a showdown for a $1 trillion-plus spending measure up for a vote in the federal government.

Politico reports that the president “has threatened to veto a massive omnibus spending package if it includes money for the Gateway tunnel project in New York City,” per their sources. And Trump is not backing down—in fact, he’s “adamant in his opposition to the federal government underwriting the project,” according to that same source.

That’s not sitting well with some pols in New York and New Jersey. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, wants to include at least $900 million of funding in the bill. New York’s Chuck Schumer has been one of the most adamant proponents for federal funding—he called Gateway “vitally important to the northeast corridor and to the entire U.S. economy,” and slammed the White House for “playing politics” over it.

The Gateway program is going to cost an estimated $30 billion, with desperately-needed repairs to the tunnel, which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, tallying $13 billion. Under the agreement worked out by the Obama administration, New York and New Jersey would pay half the cost, with the feds paying the other half. But now, it’s said Trump may be using his opposition to Gateway to leverage funding for his other priorities, like a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

It’s worth mentioning—as this report in Crain’s points out—that the federal government essentially “owns” the tunnel under the Hudson through Amtrak, and is responsible for any resulting disruption if it fails before work begins.

As Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, stated in a press release, “It is unfathomable that a president who campaigned on creating good jobs by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is threatening to upend an entire spending bill if it contains funding for one of the most important and pressing infrastructure projects in the country.”

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