(Adds details about New York trustee Cohen; clarifies first two
By Hilary Russ
NEWARK, N.J. Jan 12 The board overseeing the
$24 billion Gateway Program to rebuild portions of Amtrak rail
lines through New York City voted on Thursday to enter the first
phase of construction into a federal program, a critical step to
accessing billions of dollars of financing.
The Gateway Program Development Corporation agreed to put
the first phase onto the federal "emerging projects" roster.
That will allow it to apply for an estimated $6 billion of
federal low-interest loans.
The federal government has agreed to split funding with New
York and New Jersey for the program, but where all the money
will ultimately come from is still unclear.
Gateway, particularly a new train tunnel underneath the
Hudson River and subsequent repair of the existing tunnel, is
considered one of the most important infrastructure projects in
Failure of the lines in the current century-old tunnel,
which was heavily damaged during 2012's Superstorm Sandy, could
come within a decade and would hobble commuting in a
metropolitan area that produces 10 percent of the nation's
Construction on the tunnel could tie up traffic on
Manhattan's heavily traveled West Side Highway for three years
and cause other disruptions.
A board of trustees to oversee the Gateway program was named
late last year.
Trustee Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, was
represented at the meeting by his counselor, Andrew Right, a
former Goldman Sachs infrastructure banker.
Trustee Richard Bagger, who is also on the board of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey, was named chairman of the
Steven Cohen, another trustee, was named treasurer of the
four-member board, on which he will serve despite stepping down
from his position as Port Authority vice-chairman in December.
Cohen, who had been appointed to the Port Authority board by
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, said he left because of
frustrations with governance changes at the embattled bi-state
agency, which came under scrutiny after the "Bridgegate" scandal
exposed political influence there.
"One thing has nothing to do with the other," Cohen said
after the meeting of his role on the Gateway board.
During the public comment period, David Peter Alan, chair of
the Lackawanna Coalition, a regional ridership advocacy group,
faulted the board for not containing a riders' advocate or
establish a citizens advisory committee.
Riders "deserve to have a genuine voice" in the program, he
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Alan Crosby)