© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks touting Infrastructure Law spending to replace the Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel with the Frederick Douglass Tunnel project, as a train approaches during an event in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.,
By Nandita Bose and Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK (Reuters) -President Joe Biden traveled to New York City on Tuesday to tout new infrastructure funding for a critical underwater tunnel that connects Manhattan and New Jersey, an effort that has been mired for more than a decade in partisan bickering and ballooning budgets.
The New York visit is the second of three trips this week aimed at highlighting Biden’s bipartisan success in securing money to invest in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure at a time when congressional Republicans are threatening to block his economic agenda and shut down the government if he doesn’t agree to spending cuts.
For Biden, who is expected to announce a re-election bid in the coming weeks, the trips also offer him an opportunity to fine tune an economic stump speech.
Biden visited Baltimore on Monday to highlight the planned replacement of a 150-year-old tunnel and on Friday he will travel to Philadelphia where he will focus on replacing toxic lead pipes – both aided significantly by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021.
On Tuesday, Biden also will announce that the administration has awarded nearly $1.2 billion from the law’s new national infrastructure project assistance discretionary grant program for nine projects across the country, White House officials said.
The Hudson (NYSE:) River tunnel project would repair an existing tunnel and build a new one for Amtrak and state commuter lines between New Jersey and Manhattan. The federal government, New York, and New Jersey will split the estimated price tag of $16.1 billion. Federal funding will pay for nearly half, while the two states will pick up the rest.
The tunnel slated for repairs is 112 years old and was damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Construction is slated to begin in 2024 and be completed by 2038.
The project was halted in 2010 by then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, who declared New Jersey could not afford its share of a $2.5 billion hike in the original $8.7 billion cost. He was criticized for using those dollars instead to firm up the state’s budget.
Amtrak took it over in 2016 and it gained momentum, but was again derailed in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump’s fiscal budget called for an end to the federal program that was funding the project.
Biden plans to tout a $292 million grant from the Transportation Department for the Hudson River Tunnel project.
Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement that the $292 million federal grant is the largest award from the Department of Transportation’s ‘Mega’ grant program and will ensure construction of a critical element of the project.