With 7-Train off the Table, Spotlight Shines on Gateway

After remarks by MTA Chairman Ray Lhota on Tuesday declaring the 7-Train extension to Secaucus too expensive for the MTA, Amtrak’s Gateway proposal has gotten some additional attention.

According to the Star Ledger and others, during his remarks to the New York Building Congress, Lohta his support to the Gateway project. After a flurry of press activity and a response from Mayor Blookmberg, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) took the opportunity to reiterate his support for the Gateway project. In a press statement, Lautenberg asserts:

As we look at the transportation challenges ahead, Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel is the best option for New Jersey commuters and the entire region. . . . The existing tunnel cannot keep up with commuters’ needs, and we need a solution as soon as possible.

Earlier this year, Lautenberg helped secure $15M in federal funding for Amtrak to start preliminary engineering and design of the Gateway Project. In March, Lautenberg also pushed Transportation Secretary LaHood on Gateway during a hearing in Congress. As reported by Kate Hinds on TransportationNation, LaHood responded, “We are working with both New Jersey and New York. We know this tunnel is absolutely critical and we will continue our work. Look, if this is the priority for the region, then it becomes a priority for us.”

Lautenber’s vocal support for the project has arisen amidst a fierce debate about  transportation spending in Congress. In recent weeks, political leaders in NY and NJ have been vocal about funding transportation in the region, following the Senate’s passage of the MAP-21 legislation. In March, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference in Hoboken with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to voice their support of the legislation.

The two-year,$109B legislation would have re-authorized the federal surface transportation program and increased spending for highways by 12% and transit by 14%. The legislation was ultimately not taken up by the House. Instead, on March 29, Congress approved a three-month extension of the previous legislation, SAFETEA-LU, which expired in 2009. By maintaing funding at previous levels, however, the extension poses fewer changes to spending than the re-authorization legislation proposed by House Republicans in January. The five-year, $260B bill would have reduced spending on transit, including cuts to Amtrak by 25% in 2012 and 2013.

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