President Biden has traveled to New York to showcase a $292 million grant that will be used to help build a critical new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey, part of a broader effort to draw a contrast between his economic vision and that of Republicans. The president spoke from inside the tunnel where the construction project is taking place.
According to the White House, the money will go toward completing the final section of concrete casing near Hudson Yards, protecting the right-of-way for the future tracks connecting Penn Station to the river’s edge.
A spokesman for the Gateway program said the aim is to begin construction this year on the new section, noting the grant expedites the process of lining up the necessary funding to proceed. It is one piece of the massive Gateway project, which is expected to receive several billion dollars under the infrastructure law.
“This is a project that, it has been known for years and years, has been needed, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with Spectrum News. “I’ve seen some of these tunnels firsthand. There is infrastructure that goes back, in some cases, 100 years or more.”
“We have got to have the kind of infrastructure that supports our competitiveness as a country in the 21st century, and what’s exciting to us is after spending the first year of this administration just really selling the idea that we had to get this bill together and get the funding, now we’re starting to move that funding and move toward results,” Buttigieg added.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it a development that has been a “decade in the making.”
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger rail line in the country, and the crossing under the Hudson is its most important nexus point,” he said. “After a lot of hard work, and a lot of stubborn persistence, our efforts are finally paying off.”
The formal announcement comes as the White House is ramping up its travels to highlight the impact of its recent legislative victories. Biden visited Baltimore on Monday to talk about using infrastructure law funds to replace a 150-year-old rail tunnel there, and he’ll stop in Philadelphia later in the week.
“When America sees these projects popping up across the country, it sends a really important message: When we work together, there’s not a damn thing we can’t do,” Biden said at the event on Monday. “There’s nothing beyond our capacity.”
Buttigieg said that one of the goals of Biden’s infrastructure bill is “to advance projects that are so big and so complex that they might not have gotten done otherwise.”
“This is an example of that,” he said of the Gateway project. “This is a specific set of projects in a specific place, but an example of one of those projects so big and so important to our economy, that it actually is a matter of national interest.”
“The Gateway Project represents so many people moving through that that part of the United States, the tunnels, and everything that surrounds them,” Buttigieg continued. “It matters so much that if they weren’t available, you would feel the economic consequences of that all the way to my house in Michigan and beyond.”
“That’s why we think it makes sense for there to be this federal role,” he added. “This is an example of something that might not have been possible without the president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the support that we got to put our federal money where our mouth is when we say that Americans ought to have first rated infrastructure.”
Previewing Biden’s Tuesday’s visit to New York, White House Deputy Communications Director Herbie Ziskend said expect the president to touch on the importance of revitalizing the old tunnel under the Hudson River and building a new one.
“Commute time will go down, congestion will go down, safety, reliability will go up. And tens of thousands of jobs – a lot of these union jobs – will be created,” Ziskend said.