WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump met with top elected officials from New York and New Jersey at the White House on Thursday over the fate of a massive infrastructure project to build a tunnel under the Hudson River critical to northeast U.S. transportation.
Trump met with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and top congressional officials including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer over the $24 billion “Gateway Project.”
In July, a House panel backed an additional $900 million in new funding for the tunnel under the Hudson near New York City. The project would also repair an existing century-old tunnel before it becomes unusable in the next decade.
A White House official said the project “will require a strong partnership” to finish it “in a cost-effective manner by streamlining the permitting process, using innovative procurement techniques, and being creative in the funding and financing of the programme.”
Cuomo said in a statement that while the one-hour meeting “was productive, it was inconclusive. The leaders from New York and New Jersey reiterated that construction of new passenger rail tunnels under the Hudson is not only urgent, but critical for the entire northeast region and long overdue.”
Cuomo noted the agreement made during the Obama administration that the Port Authority would finance 50 percent of the project with user fees and the federal government would contribute 50 percent.
Schumer said in a statement “the meeting was positive. The president was receptive and wants to get back to us on Gateway.”
Representative Leonard Lance, a New Jersey Republican, said the “administration has indicated that infrastructure investment will be a priority and I am hopeful that today’s meeting and information will persuade President Trump to consider Gateway to be a national priority.”
Failure of the lines in the current 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 economic output.
Construction could tie up traffic on Manhattan’s heavily travelled West Side Highway for three years and cause other disruptions.
Trump plans to introduce a plan this year to spend $200 billion on infrastructure funding aimed at drawing another $800 billion in private sector investment.
Vice President Mike Pence, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and White House economic advisor Gary Cohn were among those who attended the meeting.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by James Dalgleish and Andrew Hay