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Cuomo: Feds Must Contribute More For Hudson Tunnels

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP)New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that new rail tunnels are needed under the Hudson River to alleviate congestion, and the federal government needs to commit more money for the project to make it work.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, the planned tunnel under the Hudson would help alleviate problems in the existing one that is over a century old.

Electrical problems involving two high-voltage cables, or disabled trains in the tunnels, caused delays for commuters four days last week and again Monday and Tuesday. Amtrak service up and down the Northeast corridor also was affected.

NJ TRANSIT trains that use the Amtrak rails were also affected.

Repairs to the cables that were damaged by a power failure were still in progress Wednesday. But all things considered, that was nothing compared to what Superstorm Sandy did.

“That seawater, while we pumped it out, those salts and the chlorides that were left behind have been eating away at the concrete bench walls which line the tunnel, and those need to be replaced,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz.

Schulz said the repairs to the Sandy damage have not even started yet.

“We are not comfortable, nor does anybody, I think, want to anyone to close one of those tubes until we have another tunnel through which we can route traffic,” Schulz said.

Amtrak has one tunnel with two tracks in and out of Penn Station. That is why Amtrak officials and some lawmakers have been pushing for the Gateway Tunnel Project for a new tunnel.

Cuomo said Wednesday on public radio’s “Capital Pressroom” that he and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie agree on the need for new tunnels. But he said the federal government’s promise to cover $3 billion of the $14 billion project isn’t enough.

“If the federal government can make a significant contribution, then let’s go. I mean, we have the shovels. We need it. We’ll make it a priority,” Cuomo said on the program. “But we need to fund it.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote to both governors on Monday urging them to meet with him to discuss the stalled tunnels plan following a series of train delays for NJ TRANSIT riders. Foxx called the disruptions “a threat to the region.”

Cuomo said that if federal officials increase their commitment then New York will make the project a priority.

Christie said Tuesday he expects to meet with Cuomo and federal transportation officials in the next few weeks to discuss plans for new Hudson River rail tunnels. He said he had spoken to Cuomo on Monday night and that the two were trying to coordinate their schedules.

“We’ll work it out,” he said.

Many commuters say new tunnels are needed.

“Absolutely, the way the tunnels are running right now, it’s not working,” one NJ TRANSIT rider told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “They’ve got to get rid of them, and they’ve got to get something new.”

Amtrak owns most of the tracks and equipment, most of which is several decades old. The tunnels under the Hudson River were built more than a century ago and the power cables are 80 years old, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said Friday.

Boardman said last year that Amtrak would have to go ahead and close one of the existing tunnels within the next 20 years to fix damage caused by Sandy in 2012.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)