WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives passed the Transportation - Housing and Urban Development appropriations package Friday, which allocates $107.2 billion for the Department of Transportation including several priorities supported by central New Jersey Rep.Tom Malinowski, (D-7th) that invest in infrastructure projects including the Gateway Rail and Hudson River Tunnel project.

Several provisions in the appropriations packages will help advance the Gateway Project:

- Capital Investment Grants $7.2 billion ($2.2 billion in the base bill and $5 billion in emergency funding), base amounts are $197 million over FY 2020. This includes $525 million in the base bill and $1 billion in emergency funding for Core Capacity projects under the CIG program for which the Portal North Bridge project will be eligible upon receiving a Full-Funding Grant Agreement.

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- Amtrak: $10.05 billion ($2.05 billion in the base bill and $8 billion in emergency funding). Specifically, it provides $200 million in the base bill and $1 billion in emergency funding for capital projects that increase reliability or expand passenger rail capacity on Amtrak-owned segments of the Northeast Corridor where more than 380 trains traveled per day in fiscal year 2019, which could support any project within the Gateway Program.

- Rail Infrastructure: $5.8 billion ($705 million in the base bill and $5.1 billion in emergency funding) for several Federal Railroad Administration accounts. This includes $3.5 billion in emergency funding for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) projects that contribute to the development, initiation, expansion, or restoration of intercity passenger rail service.

Other highlights from the package include:

- Aviation Safety: $1.5 billion, an increase of $96 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $26 million above the President’s budget request.

- National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER/BUILD): $4 billion ($1 billion in the base bill and $3 billion in emergency funding), with $100 million for planning grants and $300 million for capital projects in areas of persistent poverty.

- Low and no emission buses will receive an additional $125 million for competitive grants. The bill facilitates deployment by continuing support for testing these buses and allowing applicants to partner with non-profits as part of their applications.

- Alternative fuel corridor infrastructure will be an eligible use for $632 million in grants through the Highway Infrastructure Programs. The bill directs the DOT to support states and local agencies in identifying barriers to the installation of such infrastructure.

“This bill pushes forward large scale projects like the Hudson Tunnel and Portal North Bridge while prioritizing sustainable infrastructure and transportation safety,“ Malinowski said. “I am proud to have worked with House leadership to build a funding package that will repair and replace the aging infrastructure that has troubled New Jersey commuters for decades.”

The existing Portal North Bridge is 110 years old, badly in need of repair, and a major source of delays for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains running between New Jersey and New York. Trains crossing the bridge over the Hackensack River must slow down due to its weak structural integrity, and when it opens for maritime traffic to pass it sometimes fails to close because of aging mechanical components, disrupting rail traffic up and down the northeast corridor.

Owned and operated by Amtrak as part of the Northeast Corridor, and used by NJ TRANSIT, the span between Secaucus and Kearny carries between 150,000 and 200,000 passengers per day on approximately 450 daily trains, an average of one train every six minutes over a 24-hour period. Trains carrying commuters from Somerville and other towns along the Raritan Valley line cross over the span several times a day after passing through Newark Penn Station

In February, the Federal Transit Administration announced that it upgraded its rating for the Portal North Bridge replacement project to medium-high, making the project eligible to enter the engineering phase and take it one step closer to a federal full funding agreement. 

NJ Transit had requested approximately $800 million in CIG funds to complete the estimated $1.8 billion bridge replacement project. In May, the Federal Railroad Administration announced over $91.5 million in funding to advance replacement of the Portal Bridge and make other upgrades to improve service along the Northeast Corridor

The two-track replacement bridge, known as Portal North Bridge, is designed as a high-level, fixed-span bridge, eliminating the movable components and risk of malfunction. The new bridge is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 billion. Partners including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ TRANSIT, Amtrak, and U.S. DOT are currently developing a funding and financing plan so that construction can proceed as soon as possible.

The recently completed design process involved a preliminary design phase, for which costs of $31 million were shared between NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak, and final design, funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant of $38.5 million.

A second, two-track Portal South Bridge span is proposed as part of the Gateway Program and when complete will double train capacity along this critical length of the Northeast Corridor. Planning and design of Portal South Bridge will be finalized following the completion of the federal NEC Future study and environmental review process.