The governors of New York and New Jersey wrote to President Barack Obama on Tuesday asking the federal government to pay for half the cost of a new rail tunnel below the Hudson River — a sign that the long-delayed project could be moving ahead.
In the joint letter, the governors say their states, along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, would cover the other half of the project’s price tag, estimated to be at least $14 billion.
The proposal — the most detailed yet from the two states — is an effort to break the logjam surrounding funding for the project, which experts say is vital not only to New Jersey commuters but to the entire Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest rail line.
“We assure you that, if we have the funding, we will get it done,” wrote New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. “Our shovels are ready.”
The governors called for the creation of a development agency — to be housed within the Port Authority — to facilitate the project. The idea was first floated by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a speech a month ago.
“There is light at the beginning of the tunnel,” Schumer told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He called the governors’ funding proposal “fair and reasonable” and said he would work to get congressional approval. “I’ve spoken to both Christie and Cuomo and told them we will go to bat, but we’ve told them we need everyone cooperating.”
While the plan must be finalized and approved, officials in both states and in Washington hailed the letter as evidence of progress. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), called it a “sign of tangible progress.”
After receiving the letter, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said federal officials would “engage with local officials immediately” to refine cost estimates and assess the availability of existing funding sources.
“Today the governors of New York and New Jersey have taken a big step forward: They’ve come to the table,” Foxx said.