Planes, trains, and automobiles… One of the best parts of living in Hoboken and Jersey City is the easy access to multiple modes of public transportation. Commuters regularly use buses, ferries, and even light rail to supplement rail train services during their commutes. Yet, for all the many transit options in Hudson County, a majority of individuals in Northern New Jersey rely solely on the train when trekking into Manhattan. One piece of infrastructure, the North River Tunnel, is vital when making this journey across the river. Today, the tunnel and the broader Northeast Corridor (NEC) are expecting renovations. Here’s what we know about the upcoming plans.
A Brief History
The North River Tunnel has long allowed for NJ commuters to reach Manhattan by train. Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and opened for service in 1910, the underground tubes quickly became an integral part of travel to, from, and within the tri-state area. According to Amtrak, approximately 450 trains move through the North River Tunnel each weekday, shuttling 200,000 passengers daily (prior to COVID-19).
Over a century after it was built, Super Storm Sandy flooded both tubes of the existing tunnel, resulting in major damage. As a result, lawmakers and transit officials alike have been forced to reckon with the possibility that part of the North River Tunnel would need to be closed for extensive repairs.
Given the high traffic in this space, such reconstruction could prove incredibly disruptive if additional services were not provided. As of 2019, it was already estimated that delays resulting from the impact of Sandy contributed to a total of 2,000 hours of lost time for travelers.
A Responsive Renovation
In response to this situation, officials looked to a proposal that had already been in the works. The Gateway Program is a group of projects aimed at improving flow into Penn Station, the nation’s busiest rail facility. Dubbed a “massive infrastructure overhaul,” the endeavor includes the addition of a new tunnel in the NEC, built alongside the original.
The new Hudson tunnel will allow the aged North River Tunnel to undergo repairs when necessary without substantially hindering commuters. This portion of the Gateway Program (called the Hudson Tunnel Project) is currently in the environmental review stage, with the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement underway. Following this stage, the project will enter a design phase before breaking ground. Construction is projected to start in August of 2023.
Once the work is completed, proponents note that services will be more reliable, helping operations to gain flexibility while addressing congestion in the area. The cost of this specific tunnel initiative comes to roughly $12 billion, a sum that is to be divided among the states of New York and New Jersey as well as their key partners in the transportation industry.
When the financial agreement was reached this past month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy expressed excitement, noting that the enterprise would “provide reliable rail service while creating tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic benefits.”