Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday excoriated President Donald Trump for failing to follow through on his campaign promise to create a $1 trillion infrastructure program.
"Remember the $1 trillion dollar infrastructure proposal that he spoke about?” asked Cuomo during a Thursday speech on the Upper East Side. “One trillion dollars. Where is it? What happened to it? It was the single best idea that I heard come from his campaign, and now it’s disappeared.”
At the start of the Trump administration, officials in New York and New Jersey spoke hopefully about the Trump administration’s infrastructure rhetoric.
In particular, they argued that a New York-based real estate guy like Trump would surely understand the importance of building a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River to replace the one that’s now falling apart, and on which the region’s economy relies.
But the federal transportation department is now equivocating about whether it wants to honor the prior administration’s commitment to split the cost of a new cross-Hudson rail tunnel with Amtrak, New York and New Jersey.
In his proposed budget, Trump zeroed out funding on which the tunnel was to rely. And his transportation department recently withdrew from the entity tasked with building the project, citing potential conflicts of interest. Further, officials have repeatedly said that should an infrastructure plan materialize, it will call for significant private sector and local contributions.
“New York State has stepped up and we have committed $5 billion to Gateway, and I am proud of it, and I think it’s a fair investment for the state to make,” Cuomo said. “But we need President Trump to fulfill the federal commitment to make Gateway a reality.”
Building a new tunnel and repairing the existing one is now expected to cost $13 billion. The overall Gateway project, which includes a new Portal Bridge and an expanded Penn Station, is expected to cost more than $20 billion.
Cuomo, who used to be equivocal about the tunnel but is no longer, traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to talk with transportation secretary Elaine Chao about the project.
He described her as "very impressive" and praised her for helping move his Moynihan Station and LaGuardia Airport projects along.
But the Gateway program is considered the region’s top infrastructure priority. The existing Amtrak tunnel is a linchpin in its Northeast Corridor. New Jersey Transit customers rely on it to commute to their jobs in Manhattan. And it was deteriorating rapidly even before Hurricane Sandy flooded it with brackish water.
And on Gateway, Cuomo said he thinks the administration has no idea what it’s doing.
"In terms of the funding going forward, Gateway for example, I don’t know what the plan is," he said. "I don’t think they know what the plan is."
Now, advocates worry that the region will, for the second time in a decade, miss an opportunity to build a new tunnel.
That, Cuomo said on Thursday, would be “catastrophic.”
“There is no other way for it to happen without federal participation,” Cuomo said. “And my friends, it must happen. It’s a very simple concept. You have an old tunnel that is damaged that will collapse at one point, and when it collapses you’ll see a collapse of the Northeast economy.”