Volume 75, Number 11 | August 3 - 9, 2005

Funds are on track for harbor rail tunnel

By Albert Amateau

Congress last week passed the new four-year transportation bill with a $100 million allocation for a cross-harbor rail freight tunnel between New Jersey and Brooklyn, a project long urged by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.

The allocation, the largest one for New York State in the entire $286 billion transportation package passed on July 29, will allow work to start on the final design of a rail-freight tunnel from Jersey City to the 65th St. rail yards in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“I’m thrilled about this allocation for something I’ve been talking about for 26 years and working towards in Congress for 13 years,” Nadler said on Monday.

The rail tunnel is expected to take as many as 1 million trucks a year off city streets and eliminate a major regional vulnerability by providing an alternative to the George Washington Bridge, which carries an estimated 90 percent of goods coming into the city, according to Reid Cherlin, an aide to Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Jerry Nadler should be cherished for his persistent campaign to see that the port of New York not only survives but grows. His work on this and other projects that support the working waterfront is important,” said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society.

The money, which can be spent without further congressional action, will help complete a final environmental impact statement within the next six months and move planning along in time to fund construction of the project in the next federal four-year transportation bill in 2009.

Cost of the rail-freight project will depend on whether it will be a one-track tunnel expected to cost $1.8 billion or a two-track tunnel expected to cost $2.3 billion.

Funded as a “project of national and regional significance” under a new section of the transportation bill, the allocation will not detract from the state’s formula-based transportation allocation for other projects. The rail-freight tunnel is viewed as an important factor in regional and national security in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, environment, Cherlin said.

The tunnel will help move the expected 80 percent increase in freight traffic through the city in the next 20 years, Cherlin said. “Without it we’d have an immovable lid on our economy,” he added.

The project will create an estimated 30,000 new permanent jobs in the region as well as an estimated 1,000 construction jobs.

Moreover, the replacement of truck freight by rail freight will relieve street congestion and take a significant amount of diesel fuel pollutants out of the air, Cherlin said.

The transportation bill also includes $43.6 million for 17 other projects in Nadler’s Eighth Congressional District.

Among them, Hudson River Park will receive $5.6 million for construction of the pedestrian walkway in the Tribeca, Chelsea and Clinton segments of the 5-mile riverfront park. The High Line will receive $4 million toward the conversion of the West Side elevated rail viaduct between Gansevoort and 33rd Sts. into an elevated park

Governors Island will receive $3.2 million for ferry facilities, road improvement and esplanade development. An allocation of $4.4 million will cover design and installation of a network of small-scale New York Water Taxi docks in all five boroughs, including six in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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