A dispute over funding has kept officials from getting started on a massive project increasingly seen as essential and urgent.
Sen. Charles Schumer on Tuesday proposed a new nonprofit development corporation to plan and finance the construction of new rail tunnels from New Jersey to New York City.
In a speech in Manhattan, the New York senator said that none of the existing transportation entities in the region has the wherewithal to pull off the project on its own. Until now, the project, known as Gateway, has been seen as an Amtrak undertaking coordinated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, the states of New York and New Jersey, New York City, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The goal is to expand train capacity into New York from New Jersey and the rest of the East Coast, known as the Northeast Corridor portion of the national rail system.
Mr. Schumer said the entire U.S. rail network between Washington and Boston could be disrupted and disabled if the project isn’t built. The network relies on two century-old, single-track tunnels under the Hudson River that allow trains to go in and out of Manhattan simultaneously. If one were shut down for repairs, traffic would be cut from 24 hourly trains to six.
A new two-track tunnel would cost an estimated $14 billion. Gov. Andrew Cuomo told federal officials last week that New York would need federal grants, not loans, to fund the project, which would take at least a decade to build. Amtrak has already spent $300 million on preparatory work.
“I commend Sen. Schumer for making these tunnels a national priority,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday. “We both agree that they will require significant federal investment and I look forward to working with him to move this critical project forward.”
Mr. Schumer’s proposal was also cheered by the General Contractors Association of New York, whose members would presumably do much of the work on such a project.
“Senator Schumer provided both a visionary leadership and a practical road-map for building Gateway,” said the group’s executive director, Denise Richardson. “It is an essential regional and national project that has been languishing for too long. Without it, the economies of all the states along the entire Northeast Corridor could revert to their 19th-century status.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.