Gateway Corp. submits revised funding plan to Feds

Michael Ein Senate President Steve Sweeney, right, disagrees with Gov. Phil Murphy, left, on taxes in the state budget.

A revised funding plan for the Portal North Bridge and a change in prime sponsorship for the Gateway Tunnel project have been submitted to the Federal Transportation Authority, the project’s leaders said Friday.

The Gateway Development Corp. said the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will assume primary sponsorship to meet the eligibility requirements for federal funding.

In the meantime, the GDC announced it has commitments from both New Jersey and New York’s legislative branch that both will pass legislation by next year to deem GDC a public benefit corporation to allow it to be eligible for the federal grants.

“New York and New Jersey have agreed in their next legislative sessions to move forward on legislation that would convert the Gateway Development Corporation into a public benefit corporation. As such, Gateway Development Corporation would then be eligible to receive a grant,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Friday said that no one has approached him about it, but if it was required, he will do whatever it takes to get the federal dollar match.

“It’s too important,” he said.

In a conference call Friday afternoon, Steven Cohen, chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corp.; John Porcari, interim executive director; Kevin Corbett, executive director of NJ Transit; and Cotton, explained the temporary change in primary sponsorship as well as the revised funding for the Portal North Bridge.

That includes an increase of $600 million for the local match from New Jersey. It also includes a reduction of $33 million from the federal contribution and a $160 million reduction in construction costs, according to a statement from the GDC.

“It’s very solid funding and a dramatic increase from Gov. (Phil) Murphy of putting the money where the mouth is. So we feel that on a financial …(it) shows the local commitment Washington is looking for,” Corbett said.

The $600 million from the state is, in part, from Economic Development Authority bonds, which are backed by state appropriations, to NJ Transit, over 30 years.

But that relies on funding from the Transportation Trust Fund, which was only recently brought back to life with the increase in the gas sales tax under Gov. Chris Christie.

The language of the bond from the EDA states that it is awarded on a preliminary basis, and the Legislature is not mandated to include the appropriation that would repay the bond in each fiscal year.

When asked about the appropriation’s future in the legislature, amid discussions of a shutdown over the current budget battle, Sweeney said he has some concerns.

“I have some concern because the Portal Bridge — there was a discussion of New Jersey paying $300 million, and the governor unilaterally doubled it without any discussion with us and is obligating us to double it,” Sweeney said. “We want the bridge done, but we want the federal government do their part.”

The increase in local funding was in response to federal government concerns that there wasn’t enough of a local commitment.

“We haven’t talked, he hasn’t even mentioned it to us,” Sweeney said about the increased local funding.

The governor touted the news of the proposal being sent to the FTA Friday.

“Critical transit and intercity rail projects like the Portal North Bridge and the Hudson Tunnel projects are essential to the economic growth and security of not only New Jersey, but the nation,” Murphy said in a statement.

“Investing in the Gateway Program also means investing in the millions of Americans who depend on reliable infrastructure. Importantly, these projects require partnership between our state and the federal government and I trust that the federal government will see the value of continuing the momentum by sharing in funding these initiatives.”