Bi-state, Bipartisan Legislation to Create Oversight of Rail Line Improvement Program Between NJ and NY
TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey commuters have long relied on rail lines into and out of New York, and will continue to do so in the years to come. With growing numbers of rail passengers reliant on safe and trusted service, the urgency to address the severe deterioration of these lines has been ever-increasing. In an effort to improve the momentum of reconstruction program due under the Gateway Program, Assembly Democrats Speaker Craig Coughlin, Daniel Benson, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored legislation that Governor Phil Murphy signed into law on Monday.
The legislation (A-5570) works concurrent to its legislative counterpart in New York and seeks the establishment of an independent, bi-state Gateway Development Commission (GDC). A seven-member commission, the body would be tasked with facilitating the completion of all Gateway Program projects with powers to manage inter-agency coordination efforts, and to obtain and apportion funds as necessary.
The Gateway Program would deliver critical rail infrastructure projects between Newark and Penn Station - New York, along the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily used passenger rail line in the U.S. Along the line, more than 2,000 trains per day carry approximately 800,000 daily passenger trips across eight states and Washington D.C.
The Gateway Program focuses on a 10-mile segment of the Northeast Corridor, and includes a program of projects that would replace and update rail infrastructure assets that, in many cases, are over 100 years old, as well as increase track, tunnel, bridge and station capacity. This segment of the Northeast Corridor carries over 200,000 daily Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT passenger trips on approximately 450 trains.
The Gateway Program’s first phase includes the construction of a new tunnel under the Hudson River, the rehabilitation of the existing tunnel, the completion of a concrete casing on the West Side of Manhattan to preserve right-of-way for the future tunnel to PSNY, and the replacement of the Portal Bridge.
“While the federal government continues to stall funding for the Gateway Program, New Jersey is taking action to invest in infrastructure, keep commuters safe and build our national economy,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “We will no longer sit idly by waiting for the Trump administration to support a program that affects the lives of thousands of residents along the East coast. This commission will help to jumpstart the process of bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century, the creation of jobs and supports the residents of our community. Commuters and residents from both states deserve to see improvements in the rail line, which are long overdue.”
The law, characterized by a commitment to equal partnership, marks a major achievement for cooperation between the states of New Jersey and New York. Not only would the commission be co-chaired by members of both states and ensure equal voice among its appointees, but it would bind them to a funding agreement that designates equal responsibility for all shares of non-federally funded costs.
“The breakdown of the Federal financial commitments toward the Gateway Program have stunted the progress of vital New Jersey infrastructure improvements,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Rooted in fairness, this legislation allows us to move beyond these unfulfilled promises. By establishing equal financial responsibility and accountability, construction and repairs of the Hudson tunnels, Portal Bridge, North River rail tunnels and Northeast Corridor lines can finally reach fruition.”
“Creating an agency and forging a strong partnership, as this legislation does, will enable us to secure long-awaited funding,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Initiating these projects so we can start seeing the finish line isn’t just structurally vital, but economically imperative. These lines are the most heavily used in the country, which is no small feat. With the authority to put all the moving parts into motion, I see the GDC being an effective means for action.”
Ensuring transparency and accountability remain central the legislation maintains a Governor veto power among other measures which subject the commission and its actions to inspection.