FTA slams plan for financing Hudson River tunnel project
By Brianna Gurciullo
12/29/2017 07:19 PM EDT Politico Pro
DOT has "several serious concerns" with New York and New Jersey's latest plan for financing their Hudson River underground tunnel project, according to a letter sent by a Federal Transit Administration official Friday.
Jane Williams, FTA's deputy administrator, wrote that the project's backers are seeking at least $11.1 billion from the Trump administration. Money from the FTA's Capital Investment Grant program would provide half the funding; three Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loans would cover the other half.
That proposal, Williams wrote, "is a move towards even greater federal dependency."
"We understand and appreciate how important this project is to you, and we remain very much open to paths that would enable it," her letter reads. "Also, Congress is poised to begin discussing infrastructure legislation in the coming weeks."
Williams denied that DOT has agreed to shoulder half of the project's costs. The project's supporters have tried to hold DOT to a promise made during the Obama administration, to do so.
"We consider it unhelpful to reference a non-existent 'agreement' rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where 9 out of 10 passengers are local transit riders," Williams wrote.
In addition, Williams wrote that the states' request for at least $5 billion in Capital Investment Grant funding "could exhaust the CIG program entirely."
Williams also took issue with the cost estimate for the project.
"We understand this new plan does not address the rehabilitation of the [Hudson River's] existing tunnels, and now only addresses the building of two new tunnels," she wrote. "Given the age of the existing tunnels was the impetus for the project, we question the decision to ignore any funding commitment to that critical component, and to omit billions in other costs previously acknowledged to be part of the overall project cost."
Beyond the tunnel project, Williams added that FTA is "deeply concerned that New York is seriously behind in its State Safety Oversight Agency (SSOA) certification process."
"Also, serious deficiencies in oversight and management of safety have been apparent in three consecutive FTA safety audits for New York," she wrote.