November 27, 2018 / 10:36 PM / 8 months ago

Trump to meet with New York governor on stalled tunnel project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet Wednesday with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over the fate of a key northeast rail tunnel.

Cuomo said in a radio interview Tuesday he is tentatively set to meet with Trump and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “This is one of those pressing, practical issues that we need resolution on for the good of New York and the entire northeast,” Cuomo told WNYC Radio. “I am going to keep hammering away.”

An administration official confirmed the meeting.

The “Gateway project” would replace the Portal North Bridge in New Jersey, which is a source of many trains delays, build a new $13 billion rail tunnel under the Hudson River, and rebuild the North River Tunnel that connects New Jersey and Penn Station and is used by Amtrak trains, among other projects.

Failure of the lines in the current tunnel, which was heavily damaged during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, could come within a decade and would hobble commuting in the metropolitan area that produces 10 percent of the country’s economic output.

The project focuses on a 10-mile segment of the Northeast Corridor, which carries over 200,000 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers a day.

Cuomo toured the existing tunnel under the river last month in a push for funding and sent video of the tour to Trump.

Cuomo said the century-old tunnel is “on the brink of a very bad situation.” It would take seven years to build a new tunnel, Cuomo said and said he is unsure the existing tunnel will last that long.

Earlier this year, Chao said New York and New Jersey must shoulder more of the costs to build the tunnel under the Hudson River.

“New York and New Jersey have got to up their local share,” Chao said. “New York and New Jersey are two of the richest states in the country.”

Political wrangling over the project stretches back more than a year.

Trump has opposed directing funding for the project, angering Democrats and some Republicans. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York blocked many of Trump’s key transportation nominees for months over the issue before relenting in February.

In December, New York and New Jersey committed $1.75 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively, to fund the new tunnel under the Hudson River, but would largely rely on upfront government loans.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by James Dalgleish

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