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Federal funding shaky, rail tunnel project pushes ahead

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Officials overseeing a multibillion-dollar effort to build a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York and make other infrastructure improvements outlined the project’s progress Thursday, amid continuing uncertainty about key federal funding.

The Obama administration had committed to paying for half the project, with the two states splitting the other half. But President Donald Trump’s recently proposed budget could jeopardize the project’s ability to gain access to a federal grant program, officials have said.

They reported Thursday that work has pushed ahead on the two main components of the project’s first phase: the second tunnel under the Hudson River and the replacement of a 110-year-old bridge between Newark, New Jersey, and New York City that is a regular source of delays when it fails to swing back into place after allowing boats to pass under.

A draft environmental impact statement for the estimated $10 billion tunnel project will be ready in 30 days for public review, members of the Gateway Development Corp. said Thursday.

The environmental permitting process, initially expected to take until next year, was fast-tracked under President Barack Obama’s administration.

Also, local financing for the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River is in place and construction could begin next spring, officials said, provided the federal government contributes its half of the estimated $1.5 billion project.

Both are seen as crucial to rail travel in the Northeast. The New Jersey-New York area is a frequent bottleneck caused by capacity constraints and aging infrastructure.

New Jersey’s congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao this week urging her to dedicate funding for the project.

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