Volume 5/Issue 16

  • Amtrak Executive Testifies Before NJ Senate Panel on Gateway Tunnel Project
  • Governor Christie Signs Net Metering Solar Bill

Amtrak Executive Testifies Before NJ Senate Panel on Gateway Tunnel Project

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Executive Vice-President for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Business Development testified before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee yesterday to discuss the need for the new Gateway Tunnel Project and rebuilding the existing century-old tunnels into Manhattan. 

Mr. Gardner noted that age, Superstorm Sandy and extensive utilization of the current infrastructure makes the possibility of multi-day disruptions of service, like those occurred in July, likely to happen again. He informed the committee that chlorides from Superstorm Sandy have deteriorated the tunnels to such a degree that a complete removal and replacement of the existing infrastructure (including the tracks and walls of both tubes) needs to take place, which will require each tunnel to be respectively shut down for more than a year as they eventually are rebuilt. 

The Gateway Tunnel Project calls for the new tunnels to be built first, which will sustain a viable capacity of train traffic as the refurbishment of the existing tunnels subsequently starts.

Mr. Gardner stressed that several components of the Gateway Tunnel Project would help meet current needs and set the infrastructure for future growth.  This includes construction of a new $1.3 billion portal bridge, a new “Penn South” concourse in New York’s Penn Station (which would be the termination point in Manhattan for the Gateway Tunnel) and work on new loops in Bergen and around the Secaucus Junction station, which will provide for one-seat rides for Bergen County commuters.  Future expansion plans conceptually envision an eastern-bound connection in Manhattan.

When questioned by the committee as to what the states can do to facilitate the process, Mr. Gardner repeatedly stressed the need for them to fully commit to the development of the project and to investing the needed resources.   He advised the legislators that the goal is to utilize a national rail construction program that would provide for an 80/20 split in funding the $14 billion project cost between the federal government and the states.

Mr. Gardner’s comments also come in the wake of a letter sent from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx on Friday, saying that “It is simply not appropriate for Amtrak and the federal government to look to the States and to the Port Authority to bear the large financial burden of an Amtrak asset that has fallen into disrepair through lack of Amtrak investment over decades.”   According to POLITICO New York, Governor Cuomo reiterated his opposition to New York's funding of the project on Monday, stating "... It’s not my tunnel. It is an Amtrak tunnel that is used by Amtrak and by New Jersey Transit."

NJ State officials are expected to testify before the Committee in September.

Governor Christie Signs Net Metering Solar Bill

Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon to grow the use of solar energy was signed into law by Governor Christie yesterday.

Net metering allows solar energy customers, such as residences, to send the electricity they do not use (up to a limit) back to the power grid and receive a credit in return, spurring cost savings and expanding the use of clean energy.

Currently, utility companies are permitted by law (after review by the Board of Public Utilities) to cease to offer net metering once a certain threshold is met.  The legislation raises the threshold to better reflect where the solar market is operating today and at a level that is more aligned with the State’s renewable energy goals.

River Crossing Strategy Group worked hand-in-hand with our client, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and a coalition of solar energy organizations, to manage the bill through the legislative process and onto the Governor’s desk.  We congratulate SEIA on the successful signing of this important legislation.