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New Jersey's Portal Bridge OK'd For Federal Funds, But Gateway Project Doesn't Make Cut

SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A push to repair a century-old rail bridge in New Jersey has cleared a major hurdle.

The Portal Bridge, which often gets stuck and delays commuters, got the green light for $1.7 billion in federal funding. An analysis by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit found that from 2014-2018, commuters between New York and New Jersey were delayed 85 times and each delay lasted two hours or more.

FLASHBACK: N.J. Gov. Murphy, Lawmakers Call On Feds To Help Pay For Portal Bridge Replacement

The Trump administration said no, however, to the much needed Hudson River Tunnel.

When something goes wrong with one of the Hudson River Tunnels, thousands of people end up stranded at Penn Station and on trains for hours, yet the Trump administration still won't make the Gateway Project a priority.

"It's one of those things that I don't understand. I introduced a bill a little while ago called the Doomsday Bill with Peter King from New York, basically saying to the administration, hey, you must have some plan in a box somewhere that you're not telling us about because if this region shuts down, it's going to have a catastrophic effect on the national economy," Rep. Joshua Gottheimer told CBS2's Meg Baker.

"This is a significant project not just for the region, not just for New Jersey, but the entire country," transit expert Janna Chernetz said.

The Federal Transit Administration, or FTA, again ruled that the tunnel did not meet the criteria to receive grant money, but Gateway program leaders say the feds are ignoring the most urgent infrastructure project in the nation. Changes were made to reduce the overall cost of the project by more than $1 billion.

"The cost of the project cannot be born simply by the states of New York and New Jersey and even with the Port Authority on board," Sen. Robert Menendez said.

"We are going to keep speaking out. We're going to keep knocking on their door. I've met with the president about this. I'll meet with anybody to try to get this moving," Gottheimer said.

Each project is graded independently based on its unique circumstances and against a series of criteria.

MORE: Delay In Funding Gateway Tunnel, Portal Bridge Fixes Costs Passengers 2,000 Hours A Year

The FTA did upgrade the status of the Portal Bridge replacement project. This allows the plan to move into the engineering phase and puts it on track to receive federal funding. The antiquated bridge transports trains over the Hackensack River.

Local leaders and transit experts call this a big win.

But that's just part of the problem for the 90,000 daily NJ Transit commuters who ride through the 100-year-old tunnels that some have called ticking time bombs.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation says once full construction begins, the remainder of the Portal North Bridge Project is estimated to take approximately five years.

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