Gateway project board plays ‘mythbuster’ about bridge, tunnel plans

By Anjalee Khemlani
North Jersey | Oct 10, 2018 at 4:29 pm

The Gateway Development Corp. is fighting back against what it feels are misperceptions about original public proposals, which have been recently referenced in an attempt to address the potential ever-increasing cost estimates of the project, due to delays, including the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel projects.

The $13 billion project is still waiting for federal funding to support costs, which board trustees have said they are confident will come through.

“GDC welcomes constructive input for how best to deliver these projects as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, but we have to set the record straight when there are ill-considered proposals that would send us back to square one,” said Stephen Sigmund, GDC’s chief public outreach officer. “We cannot allow well-intentioned but unsubstantiated proposals to undermine thoughtful and sensible efforts to construct a modern, reliable 21st century rail bridge and tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. In the meantime, we remain stuck with a 107-year-old one-track-in, one-track-out rail system that continues to fail the region and threatens 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

Some of the ideas that have been floated include reducing the portions of the bridge and tunnel that are replaced, or building a single track instead of two in the tunnel.

Many are not feasible or not practical, according to a GDC spokesman Wednesday evening.

A single, one-track tube would save some costs in the short-term, but would eliminate the option for a second tube, according to GDC.

It would be inefficient for cost, environmental studies, designs and engineering documents to begin the second track at a later point.

In addition, a single tube does not provide safe exits for passengers in the case of an emergency.

On the Portal North Bridge, GDC said proposals to build a three- or four-track fixed bridge, to increase capacity, are inefficient. And a tough engineering feat.

Firstly, it would actually add more congestion since getting to the tunnel still requires only two tracks — so the plan would cause more backups. In addition, railroad bridges are heavier and bulkier, so the cost would increase accordingly, according to GDC.

Leading experts have already vetted the proposals over the years it took to develop the project, and rehashing the old ideas is a futile exercise, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, portions of the project have been moving ahead while the stakeholders await word from the federal government.

Both New York and New Jersey have already committed their share to pay for the project. New Jersey has done so with bonds through the Economic Development Authority, backed by the states gas tax revenue.

In order to better position themselves to qualify for federal funding, the GDC also recently named the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as the project lead.

A response from the federal government is expected in January.

Anjalee Khemlani | akhemlani@roi-nj.com | AnjKhem