Trans-Hudson Tunnel Awarded Another $20 Million -- If Congress Okays It

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(photo courtesy of Senator Lautenberg)

A new trans-Hudson tunnel got a $20 million vote of confidence Thursday -- but it remains to be seen whether it will win approval in political environment riven by dissent over transportation funding.

The Gateway tunnel project-- deemed "absolutely critical" by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a hearing last month -- was proposed last year as an alternative to the ARC tunnel, a similar project cancelled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010.

According to Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who 's trying to bring a new rail tunnel to fruition, Gateway is expected to increase Amtrak and NJ Transit's capacity into New York by 65 percent.

Both New Jersey senators have thrown their support behind the project. “The Gateway Tunnel is critical to addressing our state's transportation crisis,” said Lautenberg in an emailed statement. Senator Robert Menendez, also quoted in the email, added: “We are at capacity on all Hudson River crossings, so the Gateway Project is simply essential to New Jersey’s economic growth and for our commuters."

Lautenberg is smarting over the ARC tunnel. At a Senate hearing yesterday, he testily asked a Port Authority executive: "Why did the administration that we have in office now cancel $6 billion worth of money that we raised through this place to build a tunnel and get 22,000 cars off the road?"

If the $20 million wins full Senate approval, Amtrak will have a total of $35 million to begin design and engineering work on Gateway. In November 2011, the Senate approved $15 million for the project. Amtrak had initially requested $50 million for a design and engineering study.