New York, NY—After a two-week Spring recess, Congress reconvened in Washington this week and one of the first things President Joe Biden did was to invite several Congressional representatives to the West Wing to discuss the particulars of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in town last week, said Biden’s plan is significant because it could lay down the tracks for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.
Indeed, one of the components necessary for the development of high-speed rail in the Northeast between Boston and Washington vis-à-vis New York is the construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel that would expand capacity into Penn Station for both Amtrak and NJTransit commuter trains.
During the latter stages of President Barack Obama’s presidency, negotiations took place between the federal government and New York and New Jersey to finalize a 50-50 split to pay for the costs of construction, but no agreement was reached.
During President Donald Trump’s tenure, the Federal Railroad Administration, which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation, did not finalize the completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement, a big sticking point to move the tunnel project forward.
However, in March, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeg appeared before the influential House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to say that the Hudson River Tunnel project is a priority of the Biden Administration.
Indeed, last week, the FRA announced that it is working with several agencies such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NJTransit to complete the EIS on May 28.
After announcing the expansion of 3-K seats in front of Eleanor Roosevelt High School last week, we interviewed Congresswoman Maloney about the significance of Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan for New York.
“It’s tremendously significant. We can use the whole $2.3 trillion right here in New York with our bridges, roads and new infrastructure that we need,” said Maloney.
“We don’t even have high speed rail, and it’s one of my visions to use some of this money to create high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. I think nothing would do more to grow the economy. We don’t have high-speed rail in America, if you can believe that. So, this infrastructure plan is very important.”
One of the other linchpins to expanding passenger capacity in New York, especially if construction of a new Hudson River Tunnel soon commences, is the expansion of train station access to accommodate the expected increase in ridership post-pandemic. Indeed, 600,000 passengers commuted daily to and from Penn Station before COVID-19.
The opening of the Moynihan Train Hall in January represents an effort by New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo to expand Penn Station. Billed as the Empire Station Complex Plan, the state wants to expand Penn Station one block south of 34th Street.
But that entails the demolition of multiple properties, and as we reported last week, there is a coalition that held a press conference to say they want to stop the expansion because it isn’t necessary and also because they want more community input before a final plan is adopted.
Congresswoman Maloney agrees on the need for more community input.
“Absolutely, I think the plans should come from the community, and the community board is not supporting it in the neighborhood. Now, that’s very troubling to me. We should be listening to our community leaders, planning it and involving them in the plans going forward,” said Maloney.