Kris Kolluri, the CEO of the Gateway Development Commission, admitted he could breathe a little easier after the first construction contract of the Hudson Tunnel project — the biggest civil project in any of our lifetimes — was approved by the GDC board.
“There is a huge sense of relief,” he said. “These agreements are incredibly complex — there are so many moving parts.”
The same can be said for the project itself.
The board approved the work that will be done on the Tonnelle Avenue project — the literal beginning of the tunnel on the New Jersey side — now, it’s time for the next steps of what is a nine-part project.
The good news: Four of the remaining eight projects will be going in the next 15 months, or by Jan. 1, 2025, Kolluri said.
One of the projects, for the concrete casing, could be started by the end of 2023. The three others — the Hudson River ground stabilization, the Palisades Tunnel and the Manhattan Tunnel — are currently in the procurement process.
All this action from a project that seemingly has been stalled for a generation.
The approval Monday of Conti Civil LLC to handle construction services for the $28.5 million Tonnelle Avenue Overhead Bridge and Utility Relocation Project in North Bergen has given the entire project a kick-start, Kolluri said.
“To be able to say we’re finally going from concept to reality after all these years is incredible,” he said. “It builds confidence in the project, it builds confidence in the agency and it builds confidence that we can once again move projects that have been long stalled.
“This is exactly the momentum that we sought to achieve a year and four months ago, when I started.”
The other piece of good news Monday was the announcement that the GDC will work with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on much of the project.
“They will provide technical service construction management services,” Kolluri said. “These are aspects of the project that we value a lot and are needed to make this work. Together, we can deliver a project on cost and on schedule. That is ultimately the objective of this.”
Of course, Kolluri said the greatest partners on the project have been the leadership on both sides of the river.
“Projects like these don’t come to fruition without total collaboration and coordination by the two governors, by the other elected officials and, of course, the president,” he said. “It is being entirely driven in the most coordinated, cooperative fashion that I have ever seen in my career.”
It’s a career that could be capped in 2035, when Kolluri expects the Hudson River Tunnel project will be finished. The thought of that is both exhilarating and overwhelming.
“This is a massive undertaking,” Kolluri said. “There’s a reason a heavy rail tunnel has not built under the Hudson in 113 years. It’s very hard to do. It is incredibly complex. And there is a high-dollar value attached to it.
“So, we have to plan slowly, act fast and act in a way that will deliver project within a budget and a schedule.”