Watch CBS News

President Joe Biden touts $292 million grant for Hudson River Tunnel Project

Work set to begin on Hudson River rail tunnels
Work set to begin on Hudson River rail tunnels 03:31

NEW YORK -- Work is finally set to begin on the long-debated new rail tunnels under the Hudson River that are critical to the national economy.

That's because President Joe Biden was in New York, announcing a nearly $300 million infrastructure grant.

Almost all the elected officials at Tuesday's event offered some version of "The train is finally leaving the station" in talking about the new Gateway money, but don't get your hopes up. It's not going to be done in the blink of an eye, as 2035 is the latest completion estimate, and in New York estimates tend to be more like guesstimates.

"This tunnel opened for business in 1910, 113 years ago, and the structure is literally deteriorating. The roof is leaking. The floor is sinking. Plus, it was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy," Biden said.

FLASHBACKFTA upgrades Gateway Tunnel Project rating for federal grants

The president, who is known in the capital as "Amtrak Joe" due to the decades he commuted every day from Washington to Delaware, explained the urgent need to replace the aging north river tunnels under the Hudson that are critical to the nation's economy. As much as 20% of the gross national product comes through the tunnels.

"If this line shuts down for just one day, it will cost the American economy $100 million a day," Biden said.

President Biden in NYC for Gateway Tunnel Project announcement 02:40

The president was here to announce a grant of $292 million from the massive bipartisan infrastructure bill that will cover half the cost of building a so-called "box tunnel" that will connect the new Gateway Tunnels to Penn Station.

You could call it the first small step because the entire project is now slated to cost more than $16 billion. However, Sen. Chuck Schumer said it's crucial.

"This is the first and necessary starting point of Gateway, but it's also one of the hardest parts of Gateway because it cuts through solid Manhattan bedrock to form the entry point of the two new underwater rail tunnels that are the centerpiece of the project," Schumer said.

Although Gov. Kathy Hochul, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the senators from New York and New Jersey were on hand to praise the project, Schumer has been the so-called "grandfather of Gateway," pushing ahead despite opposition from then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former President Donald Trump.

The damage to the tunnels caused by Superstorm Sandy was on the minds of many.

"And any further delays put us in danger because you never know what could happen. My god, a hurricane hitting New York. We have to be prepared for circumstances that you never would've expected in your wildest dreams. We need to have the redundancy -- backups -- to make sure that this region is never, ever paralyzed, because that's exactly what would happen," Hochul said.

The president also talked about other local projects funded by the infrastructure bill, including upgrades at the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx and a windmill power project off the coast of Staten Island.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.