NEW YORK — The tunnels that connect New York and New Jersey are getting crowded and they're getting older.
Tuesday morning, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx met with New Jersey's U.S. Senators and Governor Chris Christie.
Calling the meeting "substantive and productive," they issued a statement after the meeting in Newark at Senator Cory Booker's office. There was not an official media briefing with reporters.
"The State of New Jersey supports the Gateway project and is committed to developing a framework with the Federal government to begin it," said the news release. "We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties. As commuters can attest, we cannot afford further delay."
Senator Booker, Senator Menendez and Governor Christie say they will work with the federal government to obtain a "substantial Federal grant contribution" for the tunnel projects, as well as "other funding and financing options."
Riders have been calling for action. Commuter Matt Haze created a twitter account called RealNJTransit to communicate and coordinate ideas and issues.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has also taken to social media. Officials are asking for submissions with the #ShowUsYourInfrawear on Twitter and Instagram.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York had already called for the creation of a Gateway Developmental Corporation during a speech and a question-and-answer session with reporters. An act of the Governors can create the entity. The parties had been corresponding via letters, which were released to the media.
Senator Charles Schumer says the non-profit developmental corporation can begin the process of lining up finances for the project. That includes securing air rights and private monies. Senator Schumer says the federal government should cover many costs since the tunnels are important to the economy of the northeast.
Recent service issues and delays with NJ Transit and Amtrak have highlighted the problems facing the 105 year-old structures; which were also damaged by the salt water during Hurricane Sandy.
“I commend Senator Schumer for making these tunnels a national priority. We both agree that they will require significant federal investment and I look forward to working with him to move this critical project forward,” NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement issued by his office.
In testimony before the New Jersey Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, an Amtrak executive said billions are needed to maintain and upgrade the tunnels. Amtrak operates the structures and is responsible for upkeep and repair.
The price tag for a new tunnel structure could exceed $20-billion .
Riders want specifics on how construction would impact service and how the costs will be controlled.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, citing the undefined costs and unclear financing, cancelled his state's involvement in the project about 5 years ago.