U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-08) today announced that the final version of the Economic Recovery Act negotiated by the Senate and House of Representatives and expected to be voted on today includes provisions which would allow up to a $1.5 billion federal commitment towards the new rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York under the Hudson Riverthe largest transit project in the countryand more than $17 billion for other rail and transit projects nationwide.
"This recovery package provides sorely-needed funding to modernize Amtrak, develop high-speed rail and break ground on major public works projects, such as the new Hudson River rail tunnel," Sen. Lautenberg said. "Not only will this package serve as an engine for job creation, but these investments will pay off in the years to come by reducing congestion on our roads and providing new, energy-efficient options for travelers. The rail funding in this bill makes a major commitment towards the development of a nationwide high-speed rail network. Together, these investments will stimulate our economy and help create a 21st-century transportation system."
"This much-needed rail tunnel embodies what we're trying to do with this recovery package - we're jumpstarting a ready-to-go project that creates jobs now and lays the groundwork for a more secure economic future," Menendez said. "Improving our mass transit system helps give New Jerseyans better options for commuting so they can save time and money. This rail tunnel contributes to an economy in which energy expenses will be decreased, green collar jobs will be increased and in which we can break free from the shackles of foreign oil. It's taken a lot of hard work to lay the foundation for this project, but this recovery package is going to get it started."
"This level of robust funding for transit is long-overdue," stated Pascrell. "Transit investment is a recession buster. It puts people to work on railways and in factories throughout New Jersey. Most importantly for the future of our state's economy, we hope to use this funding to improve the busiest rail corridor in America by providing for new transportation alternatives like the ARC tunnel project."
Specifically, the bill provides $750 million for a nationwide competitive grant program administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Federal officials can use this funding towards capital transit projects around the country; in addition, the bill provisions allow FTA to commit an additional $1.5 billion towards projects like the tunnel. FTA has given the tunnel project one of the nation's highest ratings among all shovel-ready transit projects. Without such a commitment, the tunnel project could have been subject to delays. Lautenberg, Menendez and Pascrell began pushing for extra funding last year and secured it in the economic recovery package.
Last month, Lautenberg and Menendez and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has completed its environmental review process for the Hudson River Mass Transit Tunnel project, which is expected to create 44,000 permanent jobs throughout the New JerseyNew York region. With train traffic from New Jersey to New York at maximum capacity, the tunnel project would double commuter rail capacity between the two states and improve rail service across the Garden State and reduce congestion on roadways.
The bill also contains more than $9 billion for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail programs to improve the Northeast Corridor and begin to develop a network of high-speed trains nationwide. At least $510 million will be used for additional rail improvements in Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, outside of Amtrak's regular capital budgets for the next 19 months. These rail programs were created by Sen. Lautenberg's rail law enacted by Congress last October (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, cosponsored by Sen. Menendez). Sen. Lautenberg's 1999 High Speed Rail Investment Act proposal was the first major proposal for a multi-billion dollar nationwide high-speed rail network.