Updated Wednesday, Sept. 16 11:23 a.m.

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The governors of New York and New Jersey are asking the federal government to pay for half of the cost of a new Hudson River rail tunnel.

In a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said their states, along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, would cover the rest of the project. It has a price tag of at least $14 billion.

“Everyone knows we need to build a tunnel,” Cuomo told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb, on Tuesday. “My point has been, ‘And who’s going to pay for the tunnel?’ That little detail has been slowing us down.

“To get things going, to stop the finger-pointing, to stop the politics, a Democratic governor and a Republican governor are saying, ‘How about this? We’ll split it.'”

Cuomo and Christie said their plan is a “realistic, appropriate and fair” approach to a project needed to address delays and congestion in the aging 105-year-old tunnel, which also suffered damage by Superstorm Sandy.

“If the federal government will provide grants to pay for half of the cost of the project, the Port Authority, New York and New Jersey will take responsibility for developing a funding plan for the other half, convening all relevant agencies, and utilizing the proposed federal low-interest loan, local funding sources, and other funding strategies necessary to complement the federal grant commitment,” they said. “This funding framework is comparable to previous structures proposed for a new tunnel.”

Cuomo and Christie said their letter is an attempt to break the “logjam” surrounding funding that has delayed construction for decades.

“However, the key step to building a new tunnel is a realistic financial plan and commitment by the federal government,” they said.

The governors said they have both been in touch with their respective Congressional delegations and said they have also asked that federal environmental and planning approvals be expedited “in order to move forward as quickly as possible.”

New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox issued a statement applauding the governors’ funding proposal, calling it “an important step forward in the long stalled effort to build a new trans-Hudson commuter rail tunnel.”

“The need for this new tunnel cannot be overstated. It is absolutely essential for the region and the residents of both New Jersey and New York,” Fox said. “We cannot wait for our century old system to fail us.”

Some 200,000 passengers ride trains through the existing tunnel each day. Amtrak estimates that the passageway, which has a single track in two tubes, one for either direction, has a life expectancy of about 20 years. Construction of a new tunnel will take a decade.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, over the summer, commuters on NJ Transit and Amtrak faced a series of seemingly unending delays, and the situation could get worse.

“Right now we are down to two tubes, one of those tubes is going to have to come off line no later than the next 20 years, and that would mean a catastrophe, only a quarter of the trains could get through,” David Birdsell, Baruch College said.

If nothing is done, experts say Amtrak will have to shut down one tube for a year for repairs that would reduce the total number of trains using the tunnel from 24 to 6 per hour at peak times. That would entail adding more ferries, buses and cars to an already congested area and threatening to disrupt the entire Northeast Corridor, which is used by 750,000 passengers daily in eight states.

Cuomo said even if they made a deal now, it would still be years of planning and environmental study and then years more of construction.

To read the governors’ full letter to the White House, click here.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman, “It says a lot that New York and New Jersey would come together and commit.”

Booker said he didn’t want to discuss whether he thought convincing the federal government to pay for half was feasible. As the top Democrat on a Senate transportation subcommittee, he said his top priority now is convincing his colleagues from around the country that investing in the New Jersey/New York region is worth it.

“It’s a region that sends a lot more money down in Washington than it receives,” Booker said.

(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.)

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