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Construction to Restart on Hudson Tunnel

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2023


After a years-long break, construction on New Jersey’s rail tunnel to Midtown Manhattan is starting back up, removing the need for a pair of “crumbling tubes” built over 100 years ago.

According to a report from the New York Times, construction on a highway bridge could begin as early as next month to clear a path for boring machines to cut through the rocky palisade and under the Hudson River. 

Project Background

Part of Amtrak’s massive Gateway Program, developed in 2017 to overhaul parts of New York’s and New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure, included plans to build the Hudson River Tunnel from 2019 to 2026.

The tunnel was thought of as one of the most important transportation projects in the nation, in part because it would allow for the reconstruction of the North River Tunnel. Completed in 1910, the North River Tunnel was already well into its prime when in 2012, Superstorm Sandy inundated it with millions of gallons of salt water, which left behind corrosive chlorides.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had previously approved plans to remove damaged concrete from the Canarsie tunnel that lines and encases power cables—followed by replacing the cables and rebuilding the concrete walls.

In September 2020, the cost of the project was reported to have climbed in cost and time, increasing $275 million to its current estimation of $11.6 billion, and its start delayed to 2022. According to a statement released by the Gateway Program, the project was submitted in response to the Federal Transit Association’s annual call for projects for the Capital Investment Grant Program. 

When infrastructure priorities were being outlined for the Biden Administration in March, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told lawmakers at the time that the Hudson River Tunnel replacement repair and replacement would be a top priority.

In June 2021, the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration issued the final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the project.  

At the end of 2021, officials for the Gateway Development Commission announced that the final permit for the Hudson Tunnel Project had been obtained. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 404/10 permit allowed the digging of the tunnel to begin once necessary funding was in place. 

Then, at the beginning of 2022, the FTA announced that it has upgraded the Hudson Tunnel project’s rating, clearing the final roadblock needed to receive federal funding. The rating, which had been raised to “medium-high” from “medium-low,” allowed the project to move forward in seeking funding from the Capital Investment Grants program. 

Then, in February this year, President Joe Biden visited New York to announce $292 million in bipartisan infrastructure law funding for a “critical” early phase of the Hudson Tunnel Project. A part of the National Infrastructure Project Assistance discretionary grant program (Mega), the funding was awarded to Amtrak for concrete casing. 

The long-awaited $16.1 billion project would involve building a new tunnel parallel to the existing structure between New York and New Jersey, which would be taken out of service for repairs after the replacement is completed.

The Mega funding announced by Biden is part of a $649 million early phase project that will complete the final section of concrete casing intended to preserve future right-of-way for the new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Awarded for Hudson Yards Concrete Casing, Section 3, the concrete case will protect the path of the new tunnel from Penn Station to the Hudson River’s edge. The White House reports that if this casing were not built, the foundations from the new Hudson Yards development would likely impede the path of the tunnel and make the project extremely difficult.

In July, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that the Biden Administration will be taking its next step forward with the revitalization and expansion of the Northeast Rail Corridor. According to the release, the project will focus on the Hudson River Tunnel (HRT) project between New York and New Jersey. 

As a result of the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Federal Transit Administration—part of the U.S. DOT—reportedly informed the Gateway Development Commission that the project has received approval to enter the engineering phase of their Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.

According to the U.S. DOT, the HRT project will reportedly build a new two-track rail tunnel from the Bergen Palisades in New Jersey to Manhattan, serving New York Penn Station and rehabilitating the North River Tunnel.

Current Updates

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Now, the $16.1 billion two-track tunnel will reportedly be the “centerpiece” of the largest public works project underway in the country.

The Gateway Development Commission has reportedly awarded the first contracts for construction work on the New Jersey side. With a $25 million grant from the federal government, the commission’s board reportedly approved $47.3 million in contracts to raise the roadway and move utilities that would be standing in the way.

“The Hudson Tunnel Project is moving rapidly toward construction,” said Alicia Glen, co-chair of the commission. “Once this work starts, we expect that there will be no stopping the most urgent infrastructure project in the nation.”

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Conti Civil (Edison, New Jersey) is reportedly planning to raise a part of the Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen to create a clearance of 19 feet above the train tracks to lead to the mouth of the new tunnel, stated Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the commission.

According to Sigmund, those tracks would lie to the south of, and parallel to, the only two tracks that connect New York City to New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast Corridor down to Washington D.C.

The report states that once the avenue is gone, digging for the tunnel will begin in 2025. The report added that the tunnel is currently scheduled to open 10 years after that.

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In 2010, work had already reportedly begun on the same stretch of roadway to provide access to the western end of a different tunnel to New York. However, that project, which was known as Access to the Region’s Core (ARC), was abruptly canceled by then-governor Chris Christie. 

Christie recently stated that at the time he was afraid his state would be weighed down with “huge cost overruns,” for ARC, which at the time was estimated to cost $8.7 billion. According to the report, if the project had continued on schedule, the new tunnels would have already been in use for years.

Additionally, the commission had reportedly approved a $5.5 million contract for professional services with Naik Consulting Group to oversee construction of the project. Kris Kolluri, the chief executive of the commission, excused himself from the decision on the contract with Naik due to a pre-existing financial tie to an executive of the company.

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“This is the start of the Hudson Tunnel Project and we are not waiting for 2024,” Kolluri said. He added that work should begin on five of nine parts of the Gateway project by the end of this year.

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Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Construction; Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Infrastructure; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Quality control; Rehabilitation/Repair; Roads/Highways; Transportation; Tunnel


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