The Port Authority was awarded over $10.6 million in federal grant money on Wednesday, July 6 by the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) to advance the construction of a Cross Harbor Rail and Freight tunnel.
The Cross Harbor Freight program, whose goal is constructing a rail tunnel beneath New York harbor between New York and New Jersey, would connect New York City and Southern Connecticut to the national freight rail grid.
Congressmember and senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee Jerrold Nadler is thrilled to see the project, which has been around for some 30 years, take a big step forward because he believes it will be a key to solving New York’s freight transportation infrastructure.
“This grant will help fund important intermodal rail improvements, and advance the Cross Harbor project, which is essential for removing trucks off New York and New Jersey’s roadways, alleviating the freight bottleneck in our region, and improving air quality and economic growth,” said Nadler.
The grant is part of the FASTLANE program, which Congress authorized as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. It is one of only 18 projects selected nationally for federal funding under the FASTLINE program.
Bay Ridge activist Bob Cassara believes that if the Cross Harbor Rail and Freight Tunnel is built, it would be extremely beneficial when it comes to decreasing traffic problems.
“Ninety percent of goods coming into the city have to come through the Verrazano and George Washington Bridges, which brings a lot of traffic to the area,” said Cassara. “It’s the missing link for New York City and the whole New York State region.”
While many feel that this will be a positive way of reducing traffic problems, others are concerned that it might put a burden on their community. Nearly a decade ago, Community Board 14, which serves residents in Flatbush and Midwood, raised concerns about the environmental impact the project could have on its communities, voting to oppose it shortly before then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg — facing opposition to the project from several areas of Queens and Brooklyn — withdrew his support from it, effectively quashing it until it re-emerged in 2014.
For CB 14 (and neighboring Community Board 12, which includes Boro Park), the issue was the impact on buildings adjacent to the proposed route through the Long Island Railroad freight right-0f-way, which runs from the 65th Street Railyard through the heart of Brooklyn to Fresh Pond, in Queens. Environmental studies conducted at the time raised concerns that noise and vibrations from the 100-car-long, double-decker trains that were proposed (running every 10 minutes) could not be mitigated above the second floor.
Contacted for comment for this story, Chairperson Alvin Berk of CB 14 said he believes that while the Cross Harbor Tunnel is a great idea for reducing traffic conditions, it could have a significant environmental impact on the communities it traverses.
“The devil is in the details,” said Berk. “It depends on the responsiveness to community concerns.”
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand are also advocates of the project and have expressed how important of a step this is.
“The Cross Harbor Freight Program is a major investment for New York City that would help strengthen our transportation infrastructure, reduce congestion and air pollution, and create new economic opportunities,” said Gillibrand.
“With this funding, the Cross Harbor Freight Program is now on the right track, as it will finally help link New York City to the national freight rail grid,” said Schumer.