Light Rail

Trump Tells New York, New Jersey to Pay for Their Own Damn Rail Project

In the waning days of 2017, the Trump administration pulled its support for the $13 billion Hudson Tunnel project.


Sen. Chuck Schumer

It's rare for a president to pull funding from a sweetheart transportation project. But on the final Friday of 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was backing away from an Obama-era plan to lavish billions in federal aid on the Hudson Tunnel project.

Billed as "the nation's most urgent major infrastructure project" by its proponents, the venture envisions a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River along with repairs to an existing rail tunnel damaged by Hurricane Sandy. All of this would mostly serve to increase rail transit service within the New York City metro area.

Given the huge price tag—a projected $13 billion—the state governments of New York and New Jersey have spent years trying to shift as much of the financial burden as possible onto federal taxpayers. They temporarily succeeded in 2015, when the Obama administration made a non-binding public commitment to fund half the project.

Officials in the two states have since acted as if this agreement was ironclad, drafting financing plans that depended on this 50/50 split—and also calling for their own local contributions to be funded entirely with federal loans.

But in July, the Trump administration withdrew a representative from the board of the Gateway Program Development Corporation—the umbrella organization managing the project—citing conflict of interest concerns.

And on Friday, Federal Transit Administration Deputy Director K. Jane Williams renounced Obama's 2015 funding pledge entirely in a letter to New York Budget Director Robert Mujica.

The even split between federal and local funding, Williams said in her letter, "would be considerably higher than much existing precedent for past 'mega projects.'" Such a commitment, she pointed out, would completely exhaust the federal government's Capital Infrastructure Grant program on a single project.

Further plans to rely on federal loans, Williams noted, would mean that the federal government would be coughing up 100 percent of the initial cash needed to pay for the Hudson Tunnel project.

Mujica hit back in his own letter, which disputed the idea that federal loans constitute federal support and complained that the change was disrupting the state's plans. "Stepping away from the 50:50 framework now," he wrote, "would represent stepping away from a previously agreed upon path and the entire basis for getting this critical national infrastructure project done."

That framework was never approved by Congress, nor did it go through normal Department of Transportation channels. Williams therefore dismissed the 2015 pledge, stating bluntly that "there is no such agreement" and that instead of pinning their hopes on it, New York and New Jersey need to "directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where 9 out of 10 passengers are local transit riders."

Telling New York and New Jersey to go back to the drawing board on the Hudson Tunnel project is a welcome policy development, as it will hopefully shift more of the burden of funding the project onto those who will actually use it.

As Reason's Baruch Feigenbaum wrote back in September, the expectation that the feds would pay for a new rail tunnel had far more to do with politics than fiscal necessity. "State and local politicians don't have the courage to ask local residents to pay higher taxes or user fees so they argue that any New York City project is national in order to get funding from taxpayers in Atlanta and Dallas," he pointed out. "The Greater New York region is one of the largest, wealthiest metro areas in the world. It's time that local residents start footing more of the bill for their infrastructure."

NEXT: The Incredible Shrinking Trump Administration

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  1. I like this. I am glad this is happening.

    I am … more than a bit surprised.

    1. The thing is, Trump is rich and can afford a million limozines himself (Which should be illegal like all non-public transportation, but I digress) while the poor undocumented workers are now being denied accessing to the essential transportation they need to live in this country. No matter how you look at it this is precisely equivalent to genocide of the Rwandans.

      1. Actually, going ahead and BUILDING the train tunnel would have been “precisely equivalent to genocide of the Rwandans”, because the local Governments Almighty were planning to run cattle-train-cars-loads of illegal humans through there, exporting them all to Auschwitz.

        Maybe it will now occur to Emperor Trump, that He could make the Auschwitzians pay for that tunnel!

        1. I don’t know if I can even converse with someone who mixes up the genocide of the jews with the genocide of Rwandans.

          1. It’s brown all the way down.

            1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

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      2. BUCS, please include “/sarc” at the end of such a post, or at least “I am a jerk,” ok?

    2. It’s payback for Chuck! His insane rhetoric, crafted before even the republicans read their own recent tax bill, has come home to roost. More importantly… that 1 to 3% that gets grifted off of public works projects for democrat coffers of all sorts in NY means Trump has yanked the lefts hand out of the treasury till – there goes $1.5M in various campaign contributions through a kaleidoscope of bundlers. Democrats only fear two things: going to jail, or not being able to abuse somebody else’s money. “Local” contributions were to be funded with federal loans? Pure taxpayer abuse to serve a handful of hacks, and indicates bad faith from the get-go.
      But seriously, the price tag is clearly abusive. If the tunnel can’t be fixed for less than $2B, then cement it closed, and build a new one. There is no way the Obama price tag is close to legitimate.

      1. “Local” contributions were to be funded with federal loans?”

        Which they will conveniently drag out paying them back with hopes that they will get a more favorable congress and White House which will then forgive the loans leaving the feds on the hook for the entire project.

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  2. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Trump could tell New York to pound sand.

    1. Ford did it first.

    2. Fuck New Yorkers, and their commie voting ways. They should get nothing for all the misery they inflict on the rest of us.

  3. MAGA, motherfuckers

    1. All this winning and he still managed to spend 91 days at golf courses so far.

      1. After all the golf The Lightbringer played, I wouldn’t pull too hard on that thread.

      2. You could have chained Obama to his desk and he’d still be a typical inept lazy civil servant.

        1. Oh, you didn’t say chains about a black fella.

          1. I don’t know about you but I’m triggered

      3. Most of here feel that “public servants” do the least harm when they are off the job.

        So excessive golf is hardly a criticism

          1. Unless it is on the public’s dime, like it was with chocolate-jeebus

  4. Where will the gravy train be routed if this tunnel isn’t built?

    1. Guessing to an area that voted for Trump.

    1. At least with Mussolini, the trains always ran on time….

  5. If there’s one thing Trump knows how to do, it’s backing out of a heavily-rigged real estate development.

    1. Yeah, but normally he waits until the project is filing bankruptcy, and then he flies away in a helicopter.

    2. Too true. This one’s his best yet. Dude said he was gonna rebuild the nation and MAGA if he got elected and damnit if he didn’t walk that shit right back! What a heist! One for the ages.

  6. Added to the growing list of what Trump managed to do, whether by accident or design. Could he please direct some of this “no-no” to moonbeam’s choo-choo?

    1. One can only hope.

      And, while he’s at it, maybe he can get the F-35 incipient hanger queen project ashcanned.

      1. The F-35 will never be cancelled, there are far to many chicken-hawks in the government who have hard ons for this shiny new toy (that doesn’t work).

        1. Hell they convinced them to make a VSTOL version yet no conflict the US has ever been in has ever required a VSTOL aircraft.

  7. thanks for nothing, Reason. Now I need to go to twitter to find out how this is actually motivated by racism and hatred of the poor

    1. You can see my post early in the thread if you want to know.

    2. “thanks for nothing, Reason. Now I need to go to twitter to find out how this is actually motivated by racism and hatred of the poor”
      NYT will tell you that. The Chron will tell you why it is a result of Trump being a big poopyhead and his wife being too good-looking and hasn’t backed lame causes.
      And tight wrist-watch bands, something, something.

  8. A long time ago, I read that the costs of converting NYC buses to comply with the ADA act would be less than giving every handicapped person in NYC money to take a taxi to their destinations. I wonder what $13,000,000,000 equates to in dollars per passenger mile.

    1. Oops: my first first sentence should say “more”, not “less.”

    2. Every handicapped person in NYC already has access to an even more hugely-subsized “dial-a-ride” service. Also, most taxis are not ADA-complient either. Believe me, we hear about it in the news.

      1. I’m fucking shaking I’m so mad that you think that Taxis shouldn’t be forced to accommodate me and my Iron Lung.

        1. Your Iron Lung?

          Fuck your Iron Lung?

          What about my Massively Huge Scrotum? I need to be accommodated…dammit!

          1. It may sound like a ridiculous brag, but damikesc actually does have elephantiasis, and is in a lot of pain.

          2. Ah, Buster Gonad! The man with the unfeasibly large testicles!

            Though you live in London.

      2. Thanks for the info, Rhywun. Like I said, it was years (and years) ago when I read that factoid.

    3. I remember reading that some Park N Ride north of Seattle was going to cost more per parking spot than the cost of just buying everyone who used it a new car.

      1. I would bet all those users already have a car. The relevant comparison would be between building the parking spaces north of the city versus building them downtown plus the additional road capacity needed to get them there.

    4. This was the case in San Francisco many many years ago. The handicapped “leaders” screamed bloody murder that individuals rides was discrimination, and the city ended up with “kneeling” buses which were expensive as hell, broken most of the time, and seldom used, all so expensive that they probably could have bought wheelchair-ready vans for the few riders who used them.

      1. Or some bum to push the chair wherever the folks wanted to go, holding an umbrella if it was raining. The Embarcadero to Powell on California? Good exercise.

      2. Someday, somewhere, I hope to read of a politician who tells (fill in victim class here) leaders who are having a conniption because the whole world does not revolve around their sense of grievance to piss up a rope and stand under it while it dries.

        Ain’t gonna happen, I just wish it would.

      3. DC metro has those busses. What angers me is the Handicap get a discount to use the service that costs more and they take up 2-3 additional seats.

        1. Try this, re: “Such a commitment, she pointed out, would completely exhaust the federal government’s Capital Infrastructure Grant program on a single project.”….

          OK, NYC and NJ… since your pet project will blow the entire fed’s budget for infrastructure improvement, would y’all please go on CNN and MSNBC and explain to ALL the other States why THEY should get Zero Dollars so you can build a fucking tunnel?

          Movie at 11…

  9. Your TDS is showing, Hugh. To be fair it seems like a blind squirrel finding a nut situation more than anything. Or a piss off, Cuomo moment. When they close this particular checking account I might do more than yawn.

  10. But if the federal government does not build a purely local project, who will fund the make-work union jobs that go to the democratic faithful?
    It only averages out to 50 million dollars per vote; not that much at all.
    Blue states matter!

  11. How can the Hudson Tunnel project be the nation’s most urgent infrastructure project, when the California Super Train still isn’t fully funded?

    Do these people know how long it takes to drive to Merced from LA?

    1. “Do these people know how long it takes to drive to Merced from LA?”

      With any kind of luck, we’ll never find out how many people wanna take a choo-choo on that route. Moonbeam is termed-out, and he’s about the only real cheerleader.

    2. The Hudson Tunnel is the most urgent project (maybe because the NY port authority has been neglecting maintenance and upgrade work for decades?). The Californication Super Train is the most idiotic. Easy to confuse the two.

      1. Nah the train from no where to where the hell is that is a smart investment. LOL No one understands that Americans do not travel city center to city center. They don’t travel from San Diego to LA to San Fran. They go from El Cajon to Oxnard to Richmond. That means the supposed super train is going to be stopping every 15 miles cause no politician is gonna let his burg not have a station. In the end yu will have a super slow train or a train that won’t take you to where you want to go.

        1. There you go clouding the issue with logic.

        2. All true.

          I’ve wondered with some of these things though why they can’t just have “direct” trains that actually do move quickly, and/or “half the stops” trains that perhaps stop at 1/2 the stops along the way, but alternating the stops so all get hit by every 2 trains.

          I honestly don’t think high speed rail has much to offer in the USA for people moving, but I’ve actually always thought that high speed rail could work wonders for improved movement of freight. Think UPS ground getting down to 2-3 days from one side of the country to the other without using jets. If anything freight may end up being a saving grace of some of these idiot high speed rail lines in the long haul, because people sure don’t seem too inclined to use them when they exist. You mostly end up with all the anal pains of flying, but without the speed of flying. Who needs that shit?

          1. Yeah freight rail in the US surpasses most in the world even now. However they are benefiting from the investment in passenger rail as the same tracks used are freight tracks.

    3. re: “Do these people know how long it takes to drive to Merced from LA?”… ask both potential passengers…

  12. not one penny for local/regional transit. not from federal taxes. stop it.

  13. Democrats call for the “rich” to pay their “fair share”, paying way more in than they get out of the system, since they can afford it.
    But the moment the Feds decide not to give the NY Metro area (one of the richest in the country) money, they point to the fact that NY pays more in taxes than they get back.

    1. You’re how old, and your expect logic and consistency from the Left?

    2. It’s not hard to understand.

      Take billions from NY metro residents to provide medicaid and food support to people living in states whose Republican governments have mismanaged their economies, by pilfering local tax revenue to provide tax incentives for companies that seldom bring promised job growth and divesting from public education and welfare = good.

      Take billions from NY metro residents to build economically wasteful infrastructure projects like “bridges to nowhere” in Alaska and highway expansions in the south whose maintenance will just drive up costs for future generations, without any appreciable economic benefit = bad.

  14. MAGA: Manhattan almost grifted America.

  15. Jeez, if the new tax rules made states like NY hate Trump, now they’re gonna fucking love him.

  16. Either way, it’s all a bunch of infrastructure polishing for the same sliver of North Jersey (that wants desperately to be part of New York, even having that “Jersey” accent that literally only exists in two tiny border counties) while the rest of us in the state pay for it. The difference is that we don’t even get the modicum of understanding that Upstate New York gets over NYC’s expenses.

    Time to go burn it all…

  17. “…That framework was never approved by Congress, nor did it go through normal Department of Transportation channels…”

    That goddam, lying, thieving Obo pulled that shit once again, didn’t he?
    Fucking dictator wannabe!

    1. Not so sure about that wannabe part; he did pretty good on the ol’ dictator scale.
      Weaponized FBI, DOJ, IRS, nationalized healthcare & healthcare insurance, defacto took over energy by regulation, set a high bar for presidential edicts overturned by the supreme court, bypassed the legislature with sue-and-settle as an art form, and doubled the debt.
      Not a bad eight years.

  18. Since 6 million ride the NY subway every day, and millions more ride trains and buses (call it 10 million rides per day), just a $1 fare increase would give those grafty whiners another $2.5 billion a year to play with. If they can’t dig a tunnel and paint some subway stations with that, fuck em.

    1. Hey! It’s someone commenting on the issue while understanding fuck-all about it!

  19. I’m fine with locals paying for it but then NYC should stop sending their taxes to the federal government to pay for the unproductive midwest/south

    1. NYC should stop sending their taxes to the federal government to pay for the unproductive midwest/south

      Most of the money you refer to goes to agriculture subsidies and military bases, and yes, I would be fine if the government cut that too.

      1. It’s easy to be magnanimous when you know the status quo isn’t going to change.

  20. So what problem was this $13 billion tunnel going to solve, or perhaps, how many new ones, with requests for more funding, was it intended to create?

    1. The tunnel it’s supposed to replace/supplement is one superstorm from collapsing. It’s like a bridge on the verge of collapsing, except that I guess it’s underground and it’s New York, so it doesn’t pump the same auto-driving intuitions?

      I don’t know. Conservatives are consistently penny-wise, pound-foolish.

  21. Yeah, the Gateway “deal” was far inferior to Trump’s proposed plan to financing highway projects across the midwest, which will necessarily involve raising “new money” likely in the form of private investment guaranteed by state taxpayers.

    Look, you may not like that major metropolitan areas like NYC generate gobs of tax revenue for the federal government, but as long as that’s true, you ought to take some care in maintaining these engines of economic growth. A dollar spent keeping NYC’s economy humming pays dividends back to the federal government, while the multi-billion dollar project adding a lane to a single interchange in the middle of Indiana is just bleeding value. Taxing our taxes while also finding novel ways to withdraw federal support is just going to up screwing yourselves, in the end.

    Stop being such incredible dumbasses about it.

    1. You’re an idiot. First, to be fair, there are TONS of shitty infrastructure projects out there. No denying that.

      BUT the interstate highway system, which happens to cross the middle of the country, is SUPREMELY important to the economy. As are all of the goods and produce etc produced there ate by the people in NYC.

      The long and the short of it is that ANY project that is exclusively local should be paid for locally! If NYC needs more trains/subways, that’s an NYC problem. That’s not something Iowa or Texas or whoever should be paying for. Just the same as how NYC shouldn’t be paying for 2 lane rural highways in Iowa or Texas. The interstate highway system is just about the only infrastructure the feds should be paying for. All local stuff needs to be funded locally, period. If an area can’t afford to pay for “critical” improvements, then they need to look at their spending on other items and decide what may need to be cut to afford the more important item, or indeed decide if the “critical” thing is truly critical or just something that would be “cool” to do.

      NYC has the cash, so if they really need this shit it’s a non issue to fund it.

      1. BUT the interstate highway system, which happens to cross the middle of the country, is SUPREMELY important to the economy. As are all of the goods and produce etc produced there ate by the people in NYC.

        Yeah, you might look into where these major bucks are actually being spent. Highways may play some role in transporting goods nationally – less than rail over long distances – but the expensive mega-projects are almost always in areas where the “interstate highway system” has been co-opted by municipalities as essentially localized transportation corridors. If Trump’s infrastructure goes anywhere, that’s where a lot of the money will be going: to suburban commuters in sprawling small and mid-sized cities.

        The long and the short of it is that ANY project that is exclusively local should be paid for locally! If NYC needs more trains/subways, that’s an NYC problem. That’s not something Iowa or Texas or whoever should be paying for.

        Where do you think the tax dollars are coming from in the first place, buddy? It ain’t Iowa. Texas might be giving as good as it gets, but no one is asking red states to subsidize NYC. It’s about spending some of the billions that New Yorkers pay in taxes to, uh, benefit New Yorkers, instead of subsidizing shitty Republican policy experiments in the midwest and south.

  22. I really don’t understand this notion that the feds should be involved in building/funding ANYTHING that is not interstate. It’s ludicrous. If it’s locally used, in a metro area or just within a state, then that area needs to pay for it in full.

    Other than the interstate highway system there is basically nothing the feds should have ever got involved in period. How it has got to the point of EXPECTING the feds to pay for local toys is beyond belief.

    1. Uh, the Gateway project is an interstate piece of infrastructure, genius.

      Why should the federal government be involved in an interstate highway system? If it’s about making smart infrastructure investments that can improve returns in the form of increased federal tax revenue, why couldn’t the Gateway project qualify?

  23. Know what’s hilarious about this? It’s that New York voted blue and Hillary would have had to raise taxes to fund her immigration amnesty and healthcare plans. Sanders would have raised taxes to boot, too. (There is no such thing as free education – someone always pays for it; and the overpaid administrators within the Department of Education always get paid.) The personal income tax rate Canada is comparable to the U.S., but the sales tax ranges from 5-15%, depending upon if the provinces levy a retail tax on top of their federal tax. Australia also has comparable income tax brackets until incomes reach 180,000+, then the tax rate jumps to 45%. Their sales tax is at 10%. Sweden has the highest income tax rate worldwide at just over 61%. The point is money/funding has to come from somewhere, one way or another. If New York and New Jersey were so gung-ho to pay taxes for illegals or “free” health care or “free” education; then what is the big deal about paying a say 1% sales tax increase for badly needed infrastructure? They seem to have been willing to pay it anyway, had Hillary or Sanders won. At least this way, they will have something to show for their payments.

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