Vote opens way for federal financing of
Amtrak's $24 billion renovation plan
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[January 13, 2017]
By Hilary Russ
NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters) - The board
overseeing the $24 billion Gateway Program to rebuild portions of Amtrak
rail lines through New York City voted on Thursday to enter the first
phase of construction into a federal program, a critical step to
accessing billions of dollars of financing.
The Gateway Program Development Corporation agreed to put the first
phase onto the federal "emerging projects" roster. That will allow it to
apply for an estimated $6 billion of federal low-interest loans.
The federal government has agreed to split funding with New York and New
Jersey for the program, but where all the money will ultimately come
from is still unclear.
Gateway, particularly a new train tunnel underneath the Hudson River and
subsequent repair of the existing tunnel, is considered one of the most
important infrastructure projects in the nation.
Failure of the lines in the current century-old tunnel, which was
heavily damaged during 2012's Superstorm Sandy, could come within a
decade and would hobble commuting in a metropolitan area that produces
10 percent of the nation's economic output.
Construction on the tunnel could tie up traffic on Manhattan's heavily
traveled West Side Highway for three years and cause other disruptions.
A board of trustees to oversee the Gateway program was named late last
Trustee Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, was represented
at the meeting by his counselor, Andrew Right, a former Goldman Sachs
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Trustee Richard Bagger, who is also on the board of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey, was named chairman of the
Steven Cohen, another trustee, was named treasurer of the
four-member board, on which he will serve despite stepping down from
his position as Port Authority vice-chairman in December.
Cohen, who had been appointed to the Port Authority board by New
York Governor Andrew Cuomo, said he left because of frustrations
with governance changes at the embattled bi-state agency, which came
under scrutiny after the "Bridgegate" scandal exposed political
"One thing has nothing to do with the other," Cohen said after the
meeting of his role on the Gateway board.
During the public comment period, David Peter Alan, chair of the
Lackawanna Coalition, a regional ridership advocacy group, faulted
the board for not containing a riders' advocate or establish a
citizens advisory committee.
Riders "deserve to have a genuine voice" in the program, he said.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Alan Crosby)
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