Gottheimer, King Announce Bill Demanding “Doomsday Plan” For Tunnel Failure

What Do We Do When the Train Tunnels Fail and We Can't Get In or Out of New York City?

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Washington, February 28, 2019 | comments

 

Above: Gottheimer and King announce their bill demanding a “Doomsday Plan” for tunnel failure

 

WASHINGTON -- Today, Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) and Peter King (NY-02) announced their new bill to demand an economic estimate and contingency plan for the “Doomsday” scenario where one of the two North River Tunnels must be shut down beneath the Hudson River.

 

The North River Tunnels carry 200,000 travelers daily and are crumbling after damage from over 100 years of use and flooding during Superstorm Sandy. On Tuesday, the Regional Plan Association released “A Preventable Crisis,” a report outlining the catastrophic economic consequences of a tunnel being shut down.

 

The bill would require the Secretary of Transportation to publish a report within 60 days that explains (1) the effects to the economy of the United States in the absence of the Gateway Program if one of the rail tracks fails in the North River Tunnels under the Hudson River and (2) the Department of Transportation’s contingency plan in the case of a track shutdown.

 

“Today, Congressman King and I are announcing legislation to force the Administration to give answers for their ‘Doomsday Plan,’” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05). “Our bill, when will demand answers from the Department of Transportation on how will the economy work? How will people get into the city and back home? What is their contingency plan if a tunnel goes down?”

 

“These tunnels are a vital and irreplaceable conduit for our nation’s economy. Ensuring its maintenance, safety and reliability is a national concern and responsibility. It is too precarious a situation for human lives and economic devastation. A plan and answer is needed,” said Congressman Peter King (NY-02).

 

Video of the announcement can be found HERE.

 

Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below: .

 

We all know the facts and just how critical the gateway project is and how many people and businesses rely on the people who move through the tunnels every single day.

 

It connects 20% of America’s GDP. If it couldn’t run, America would lose $100 million every day.

 

NYC is an island and the regional economy depends on 200,000 people moving back and forth every day.

 

We also know that the tunnel is 110 years old. It’s literally crumbling and the chairman of Amtrak said himself that one of the tunnels would likely have to be shut down within 5 years.

 

Earlier this week, we heard bleak news out of the Regional Plan Association. In their report, “A Preventable Crisis,” they outlined in stark terms the human and economic catastrophe that would follow a Hudson River Rail Tunnel shutdown.

 

What happens when 200,000 daily riders need to travel through tunnels whose capacity has been cut by 75%? Where do they all go? And how does the rest of the region hurt as a result? A region that contributes 20% of the nation’s GDP?

 

The prospect that it could happen tomorrow keeps me up at night.

 

At the broadest level, the national economy would lose $16 billion over a four-year span, equivalent to the loss of 132,000 jobs, of 33,000 jobs a year.

 

When 200,000 people move from trains to roads and planes – transit options which are already overtaxed and crumbling – a half a million people will have to deal with roads and bridges even more clogged than before. That means longer, less reliable and more crowded commutes, losing hours of time at work and with their families.

 

And the price of flights to and from DC, Baltimore, and New York City will get jacked up, potentially doubling in price.

 

If you are a New Jersey homeowner, a tunnel failure would cost you in home value, as your home becomes farther from the city. Jersey wealth would shrink by $22 billion as property values tank.

 

Finally, the cost is paid not only in dollars and cents, but also in human lives and safety. With more congested highways moving slower, the RPA anticipates 38,000 additional crashes every year and – with increased smog and pollutants from cars parked on the bridges – as many as 100 additional premature deaths over four years.

 

Failure to act and build the Gateway Tunnel is a matter of life and death. We need the Administration to help in making this happen.  

 

This is a grim picture. A literal doomsday. But the Administration thinks that this is a project of “low to moderate” importance, a decrease from the rating of “medium to high” it was given in the past administration.

 

Well, if they are so confident then obviously they must know something we don’t know about how we are going to deal with the 200,000 people that need to get back and forth to work every day.

 

I’m eager to hear what their plan is for if and when one of the tunnels or both need to shut down before we have a new tunnel build, since they won’t approve the project. Since they’re standing in the way of the Gateway Project being built.

 

What isn’t spoken about nearly enough is what’s plan b here.  

 

Today, Congressman King and I are announcing legislation to force the Administration to give answers for their “Doomsday Plan.”

 

Our bill, when it’s formally introduced, will demand answers from the Department of Transportation on how will the economy work? How will people get into the city and back home? What is their contingency plan for if a tunnel goes down?

 

The incredible thing is that those states are already mooching New Jersey and New York’s tax dollars. Our states pay too much in federal tax dollars – way more in than we get out.

 

My District has historically received 33 cents in federal spending for every federal tax dollar we pay in. New York receives 86 cents for every tax dollar they pay in. Meanwhile, Moocher States like Mississippi get $4.38.

 

Arizona, a state that gets $2 in federal spending for every single tax dollar they pay, last year took almost $400 million for their light rail transit.

 

America can afford to avoid Doomsday, and they have a responsibility to. It will save all of us.

 

Thank you.  

 

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