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Biden's latest infrastructure grants target key New York train tunnel

President Joe Biden on Tuesday speaks about the Hudson River Project that will improve train speed and reliability for the 200,000 rail passengers who rely on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 6 | President Joe Biden on Tuesday speaks about the Hudson River Project that will improve train speed and reliability for the 200,000 rail passengers who rely on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Monday announced $1.2 billion in federal funding for nine key infrastructure projects, the largest of which is the Hudson Tunnel Project on the bustling northeast commuter rail corridor.

Biden made the announcement Tuesday in New York City, where the tunnel will be constructed, while also highlighting eight other large infrastructure projects across several states.

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The $292 million earmarked for the Hudson Tunnel Project will help fund the crucial early phase work for the project, which will see an entirely new tunnel built, followed by heavy refurbishment of the two existing single-track crossings.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced the president, who credited him for continuing to push the project. Biden called him "relentless," saying nobody has done more to move the project forward.

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Schumer and Biden referenced former President Donald Trump and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for their roles in delaying Project Gateway. Christie cancelled the project in 2010 when it was referred to as the ARC project. In 2018, Trump derailed the project when he refused to sign a spending bill that included funding for the Hudson tunnel.

"While others tried to shut this down, we made clear that this is a national priority," Biden said. "We did it together. We've got a lot of work to do."

The current tunnel's two separate tubes opened in late 1910 and carry Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains under the Hudson River and connect Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station with Weehawken, N.J. They allow for a maximum of 24 trains per hour on what is the busiest commuter rail corridor in the country.

"All told, this is one of the biggest and most consequential projects in the country," Biden said. "This project is critical to the northeast corridor, increasing speeds, reliability and safety. We finally have the money and we're going to get it done, I promise you."

More than 450 trains carry 200,000 passenger trips per day during the week through the tunnel.

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Both underpasses were damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and have never been completely repaired, leading to train delays.

"It is in poor condition as a result of storm damage and requires regular and, occasionally, emergency maintenance that disrupts service for hundreds of thousands of rail passengers throughout the region. Despite the ongoing maintenance, the tunnel's systems continue to degrade and can only be addressed through a comprehensive rehabilitation of the tunnel," the U.S. Department of Transportation says on the project website.

The multimillion-dollar investment comes from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance Discretionary Grant Program, part of Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, passed in late 2021.

"This law is the most significant investment in rail since Amtrak was created over 50 years ago," Biden said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Sen. Cory Booker and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg were among the officials speaking at the event.

Among the other major grants Biden announced Tuesday is $250 million for the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky. He inspected the aging span earlier this month with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The president also was announcing $150 million for the Louisiana Department of Transportation for improvements to the Calcasieu River Bridge along a busy stretch of interstate, and $117 million to improve a two-mile corridor of Illinois' Metra Commuter Railroad. That corridor includes 11 separate bridge replacements.

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The Biden administration also has plans for an additional $363 million in federal infrastructure funding.

On Monday, Biden announced billions in grant funding to replace another aging rail tunnel in Maryland. The nearly 150-year-old Baltimore Potomac Tunnel is one of the worst bottlenecks on the entire northeast rail corridor.

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