Over $100 million passed for freight tunnel, transit projects
By Albert Amateau
Congress last week passed the new four-year transportation bill with a $100 million allocation for the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel between New Jersey and Brooklyn, a project long urged by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.
The allocation, the largest item for New York State in the entire $286.4 billion transportation package passed on July 29, would 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.
Im thrilled about this allocation for something Ive been talking about for 26 years and working towards in Congress for 13 years, Nadler said through an aide.
But Kenneth Ringler, the Port Authority of New York and New Jerseys executive director, told the New York Times this week that the agency would not commit to the project. The tunnel apparently is also a low priority for the governors of New York and New Jersey.
Moreover, Mayor Bloomberg in March withdrew city support for the tunnel because Maspeth, Queens residents were anxious about a rail yard that would accommodate tunnel trains.
Nevertheless, the project has the support of more than 100 elected officials in the tri-state area, including Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Many civic and environmental groups also support the tunnel, which could take a million trucks a year off New York City streets, greatly reducing diesel fuel pollutants.
The project would 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. The freight tunnel will reduce overall truck traffic in the city and in Lower Manhattan, Cherlin said.
Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, sees the project as assuring the importance of the Port of New York. 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 on the working waterfront is important, Barwick said.
The $100 million, which could 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, Cherlin said.
Cost estimates for the project vary wildly. Nadler estimates the cost from $1.8 billion for a one-track tunnel to $2.3 billion for a two-track tunnel, while others estimate it may be over $7 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 states 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 project would create an estimated 30,000 new permanent jobs in the region as well as an estimated 1,000 construction jobs, Cherlin estimated.
The $286.4 billion transportation bill also includes $43.6 million for 17 other projects in Nadlers Eighth Congressional District.
A proposed bikeway adjacent to Battery Park connecting Hudson River Park with the East River Esplanade will receive $1.6 million. A public awareness program about transportation projects at ground zero will receive $400,000. There is $5. 6 million for the Hudson River Park, $15 million for a new ferry service between Lower Manhattan and the Rockaways.
In addition, Governors Island will receive $3.2 million to be spent on 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.