NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey is seeking to increase its funding commitment for a new trans-Hudson passenger rail tunnel by a billion dollars over the next decade — raising the state’s total investment in the Access to the Regions Core (ARC) project to $1.5 billion.
In a unanimous vote yesterday, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s (NJTPA) Project Prioritization Committee approved a recommendation to their full Board supporting Governor Corzine’s plan to exchange traditional highway dollars to fund the transit project that will double commuter rail capacity.
The NJTPA’s full Board of Trustees is set to consider the measure at its meeting next week.
“Looking at all of the funding resources available to us for transportation initiatives, we are committing historic levels of funding to ARC because it is central to our ability to grow the economy, improve our mobility, reduce congestion, protect the environment, and ensure the quality of life of our residents,” said Governor Jon S. Corzine.
The Governor’s plan to commit a billion dollars in federal highway funds represents the largest flexing of such dollars for a public transit project in the state’s history. Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEALU) and the previous transportation authorization acts have provided states with the ability to “flex” traditional highway funds to transit projects.
“Together with the commitment from the Port Authority, we would have $3.5 billion committed to this project, which puts ARC at the head of the line nationally in terms of local share and paves the way for federal funding,” said NJ DOT Commissioner and N.J. Transit Board Chair Kris Kolluri. “By exchanging Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds and state TTF funds, we are also ensuring that our critical roadway projects continue to advance.”
“Unprecedented regional cooperation has produced substantial financial support for the project, demonstrating our shared commitment to ensuring THE Tunnel becomes a reality. We have come together locally and met our promises and this latest step should move the project significantly closer to a full federal funding agreement.” said Port Authority Chairman Anthony R. Coscia.
CMAQ program funds are regarded by the Federal Transit Administration as part of the local “match” which enables the project to rate very positively in the federal process in which ARC competes for national funding.
“This Board has been a long time supporter of this project. We believe it is an essential investment for improving the mobility of New Jersey residents. I look forward to our full Board considering this recommendation from our Project Prioritization Committee next Monday,” said NJTPA Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan.
“Increasing the state’s commitment keeps this project on schedule, and positions us advantageously for funding as we continue to advance through the federal process,” said N.J. Transit Executive Director Richard R. Sarles.
Additional funding for the project would begin in 2008 and continue over 10 years, including $50 million in 2008 and 2009, $75 million in 2010 and 2011, $100 million in 2012 and 2013, then $150 million in years 2014–2016, and $100 million in 2017.
“New Jersey’s announcement today is a statement that our state is invested in this critical transit project. To continue the planning and development of the tunnel, the federal government must similarly show its commitment to our region’s economy,” said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg who helped secure $9 billion in transportation funding for New Jersey, including funds for THE Tunnel. “This tunnel will alleviate congestion and keep our region competitive, and the federal government must do its part so we can move forward as quickly as possible.”
“This is a very important step forward for ARC, which is critical for our state’s mobility. I commend the Governor for his commitment to ensuring New Jersey’s residents have greater access to transportation options. I will continue to work in the United States Senate to ensure THE Tunnel stays on the fast track,” said Senator Robert Menendez.
“Just as I did in SAFETEALU in the House, I will continue to work in Washington to ensure that New Jersey is getting the federal funding necessary to build important transportation projects such as ARC,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell.
NJTPA Project Prioritization Committee Chair Susan Zellman said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to increase the availability of rail transit for the people of this state. I am pleased the members of my committee recommended this action to our full Board.”
N.J. Transit recently completed public hearings which garnered a broad regional consensus for the project and the need for congestion relief. Preliminary engineering is currently underway along with the Final Environmental Impact statement (FEIS). Next steps in the federal process are to complete the FEIS, obtain a record of decision, then a full funding grant agreement in 2008.
The ARC program includes two new single-track railroad tunnels between New Jersey and New York, additional Penn Station capacity under 34th Street in Manhattan, and signal and track improvements along and adjacent to the Northeast Corridor.
The project will allow for the introduction of one-seat rail service to New York on the Main, Bergen County, Pascack Valley and Raritan Valley lines, the Montclair Boonton line west of Montclair, North Jersey Coast Line south to Bay Head, as well as the Morristown Line west of Dover. It will also create the capacity for future rail extensions.
The project includes expanded station capacity for New York Penn Station under 34th Street, with underground connections to several New York City subway lines (A, B, C, D, E, F, N, Q, R, V, W, 1, 2, 3, and PATH trains.)
— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire