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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Tours Hudson River Tunnels As Gateway Project Gets Back On Track

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) --After four years of being stalled in Washington, the urgently needed Hudson River Tunnel project got a green light and promise for an expedited timetable from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday.

It's the largest infrastructure project in the nation.

Sen. Chuck Schumer took Buttigieg on a tour of the dilapidated, storm-damaged tunnels under the Hudson River. Buttigieg took pictures and heard first hand how bad things are, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

"You'll be able to see some of the squalling concrete. This is where the concrete is separating from the rebar," Stephen Gardner, president of Amtrak, said during the tour. "Here you can see the condition of the concrete... We also have erosion because of the water and during the winter that water freezes and makes icicles, which can short out the actual wires."

The tour included Sen. Cory Booker and other members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations.

It was part of Schumer's plan to make sure Buttigieg understands how critical new tunnels are to the national economy -- 20% of the gross national product comes through the tunnels.

"It's one thing to hear about it. It's another to see it," Buttigieg said.

"The entire technology is severely outdated," he said, while holding up a rotten cable that had to be replaced. "Pieces of it can literally blow."

"For all of these reasons, we need to act. You could feel when your infrastructure is the best in the world, and we can feel that in the U.S. that's no longer the case. And that's why we feel such a sense of urgency to do something about it," Buttigieg continued.

Schumer said there will be plenty of money for the project. The estimated cost of building two new tunnels and renovating the existing 110-year-old tunnels is about $12 billion.

Schumer told Kramer that after four years of being held up by the Trump administration, he's going to try to fast-track the project.

"The building plan is now sometime in 2023. We're trying to get it moved up to 2022," Schumer said. "I have a lot of hope that with all of this enthusiasm that we can do that."

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "Gateway is a critical infrastructure project because this is the busiest section of the Northeast Corridor and our entire national economy depends on it. With President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, we feel much more optimistic about the direction of this major project. Secretary Buttigieg's visit to see the Hudson Tunnels is another step towards a restoration of the collaborative federal-state partnership needed to bring the new Gateway Tunnel project into reality."

Estimates are that the entire project will take six or seven years to complete. Replacing the Portal Bridge will be done sooner.

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