Amtrak Proposes $13.5 Billion New Jersey Rail Project

By Lisa Caruso
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Monday, February 7, 2011; 1:43 PM

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Amtrak is proposing a $13.5 billion project that will include building two commuter rail tunnels from New Jersey to New York by 2020, replacing a $9.7 billion project that New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie killed.

The so-called Gateway project would allow New Jersey Transit and Amtrak to increase commuter rail capacity 65 percent by adding 13 and eight trains per hour, respectively, at peak times into New York, according to a statement today from Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat.

"The Gateway Project is a vision for our future that will shorten commutes, create jobs, increase property values and grow New Jersey's economy," Lautenberg said in the statement.

The Gateway tunnels would connect to an expanded Penn Station in New York with seven additional tracks, increasing intercity and high-speed rail access in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's plan also calls for replacing a 100-year-old bridge and doubling the number of tracks between Newark, New Jersey, and Penn Station.

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm called the project "a necessary part of Amtrak's vision for bringing high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor." More than two out of every three travelers through the region passes through New York, he said.

Penn Station, used by more than 550,000 people a day, is operating at capacity and demand is expected to double in the next 20 years, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak would spend $50 million on preliminary engineering and design work and take the lead in finding other funding sources, according to the statement. Possible contributors include the states of New York and New Jersey; New York City; New Jersey Transit, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as private investors, it said.

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, said he could not comment in advance of a scheduled 1 p.m. press conference by the governor.

Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez, also a New Jersey Democrat; Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman and Amtrak board member Anthony Coscia announced the proposed project at a press conference in Newark.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company