A planned $11 billion rail tunnel key to train travel up and down the northeastern US received a boost Friday with long sought federal environmental approval. The decision by the Department of Transportation means the project to build a new Hudson River tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey can push ahead with engineering and design work, per the AP. The approval also is expected to smooth the way toward the awarding of federal grants the project needs to begin construction. The tunnel, part of the broader Gateway project to expand rail capacity in the NY region, dates back roughly 10 years and environmental studies were completed three years ago. Stakeholders, including Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, alleged the Trump administration delayed approval for political reasons, a charge Trump's administration denied.
"This is a big step ... for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs, and businesses," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called it "a significant milestone." The existing tunnel is more than 110 years old and prone to problems and delays due to crumbling walls and aging signals and wiring. Saltwater intrusion from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 accelerated the tunnel's deterioration and forced Amtrak, which owns the tunnel, to embark on costly repairs. Hundreds of trains and hundreds of thousands of passengers pass through the tunnel per day during normal times, and delays can ripple up and down the East Coast between Boston and DC. Once primary construction begins, the tunnel—to be built parallel to the existing tunnel which will undergo a two-year overhaul—could take as long as six or seven years to complete.
(Read more New York