Trump Administration kills most important transit infrastructure project


Hoping that the Trump Administration will follow through on the oft repeated promises to invest in transit infrastructure across the USA? Turns out 2017 probably wasn’t a good year for you. Despite the many tweets bemoaning infrastructure problems (many of which were false) the Federal Transit Administration informed the Governors of New York and New Jersey that federal funding for the Gateway Program previously promised will not be forthcoming. In other words, the project can be paid in full by the states or die.

The Gateway Project is tops in Trump's infrastructure plan. But he pulled the previously promised funding, Buh bye for now.
The Gateway Project is tops in Trump’s infrastructure plan. But he pulled the previously promised funding, Buh bye for now.

At the beginning of 2017, prior to the inauguration, the Trump Administration produced a document titled Emergency & National Security Projects Priority List. That document highlights 50 critical infrastructure projects needed across the country. Number one on the list? The Gateway Project. It is a $12 billion plan to add a new tunnel under the Hudson river and rebuild bridges in New Jersey that carry tens of thousands of commuters daily. Without federal funding the project will not progress. And, while the Administration suggests today that federal funding is inappropriate because 90% of the riders are locals to the two states that statistic ignores many bits of reality, including the contribution to the overall US economy generated by those commuters. Billions of dollars flow in to federal coffers as a result of the commerce enabled by the commuter rail system. Killing that affects the full US economy far more than the government is willing to acknowledge right now.



Not Dead Yet

Perhaps the good news that comes from this story is that the Gateway Program is likely not really dead yet.

After a year of talk and bluster there’s a decent chance that the Administration will actually introduce an infrastructure plan in 2018 with hopes of getting it funded by Congress. And if the Gateway Program really is the top priority then there’s a pretty good chance it will be included in the plan. But Trump knows that getting anything through Congress these days is a challenge so he’s holding the Gateway Project hostage. He needs support to get the other stuff done and this is his bargaining chip. As Crain’s New York explains:

Trump has repeatedly hyped an infrastructure plan that he has promised to release in the New Year. Such a plan would require a large number of votes from Schumer’s conference in order to pass the Senate. Folding Gateway into a Trump infrastructure bill would pressure Schumer to deliver those votes. Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which could increase the White House’s leverage.



So, push aside things like ethics and responsible behavior and it seems likely that the project will come back to life eventually. The delays sucks, of course. Commuting into Penn Station is a mess and, despite the urgent repair work Amtrak completed this past summer, shows few signs of getting much better. And this is not the first time the Gateway Program (or similar) has died. Governor Christie torpedoed a comparable plan in 2010 as well. In that case state funding disappeared after the feds ponied up some $3 billion to start the work. And now, nearly a decade later, the region once again waits to see what will come of the crumbling infrastructure.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.


Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

91 Comments

  1. New York and New Jersey want a big public spending project that will be run about as well as the cuurent East Side access project. (Most corrupt, over budget public spending program per mile in history) The project is basically a blank check for politicians to spend $20 billion (or more) The Administration isn’t saying the CAN’T build it – they are just saying that the Federal Government won’t give them a blank check to PAY FOR IT. Big difference. You want a tunnel? PAY FOR IT.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-construction-costs.html

    1. I’m quite aware that this is the feds pulling funding. I wrote that several times. And that’s how infrastructure gets built. Pretending that it is only a local project so the feds shouldn’t help fund it is stupid. Especially when the current administration previously acknowledged that it is THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY they want to see funded and completed.

      1. Please provide a reference of Trump saying that Infrastructure was his number one priority. I’ll admit he claimed to have lots of number one priorities (reversing Iran deal, defeating ISIS, repealing Obamacare, building the wall, reversing DACA, “keeping Americans safe”, etc), but I have no memory of him calling infrastructure his number one priority. Even if he did, Infrastructure would be one of many, and as I mentioned in my other comment, using The Gateway Project as a political bargaining chip is means to an end.

        1. I never said that infrastructure was the #1 priority. I said that the Gateway Program was the #1 infrastructure priority. That’s quite easily proven from the links and screen grabs included in the post.

          1. Oh my apologies. I thought you meant #1 priority as-in overall priority, not #1 priority withing infrastructure.

            As you’ve said, this is part of infrastructure and the infrastructure bill is upcoming. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

          2. The fuss is about killing the project. If it does come back – which is still an if, albeit a likely outcome – there’s still no certainty on what will be included or what the costs will be. There’s also the part where this adds unnecessary delay in a critical project for posturing. Treating the hundreds of thousands of people who use the tunnels daily as pawns in a political game is shitty. And it is shitty regardless of who is doing the playing. I’d be equally pissed if a Democrat, Socialist or Libertarian (or anyone else) did the same thing. Just so happens that it is Trump’s clan pulling the strings right now.

            Also, given the general uncertainty (and lies) about what will be included in various bills and how we get them enacted I think it is fair to exhibit some skepticism that it will simply come back as is next year.

      2. Yet despite knowing this is a complicated issue involving give and take on all sides and as you clearly admit at the end of your post, the issue is still very much alive, thanks to Trump, your header boldly and without any qualifier still proclaims “Trump Kills Project.” In the art of persuasion, the last thing you do is lead with blatantly disingenuous rhetoric. If you want to promote honest and objective discussion of issues, you need to start by being honest and objective yourself. But it’s your blog, so take it all out on that evil so-and-so Trump if that makes you feel better. But I wouldn’t think that’s great for blog readership on any level.

        1. The project is dead. The funding is gone. That’s a fact. It does not require persuasion.

          Will it come back in some other form? Maybe. Probably. But it is dead right now.

      3. The death of transit projects is overspending. Very few support $300M per mile projects that should cost much much less. Like healthcare the key problem is cost. Everyone else in the world gets costs right. Why cant we.

        1. Tassojunior, your mind is so small. It’s not that we can’t get cost right it’s the cost keep evolving so fast. This is NJ/NYC, lol. Where you live at? Salaries go up 10-20k per year. This will blow a hole in any budget but in regards to this project specifically Trump is probably going to send money to red states to help 2018 GOP Candidates then the “projects” will magically disappear and come back to NJ/NYC, lol.

  2. New York paid in ~$41 billion more in federal taxes than they received in federal spending in 2016. With the elimination of state deductions, this will only go up. So yeah, if they want to improve their infrastructure, they are paying for it, and probably some of yours…

  3. Your post, while factually accurate, has an unfair slant to it. As your post mentions, Trump is still pushing for infrastructure, and he is also asking Democrats for bipartisan support for it. If you like infrastructure, and you like bipartisanship, this should be good news.

    Honestly though, Trump knows he needs 60 votes in the Senate to get the spending approved. He wants bipartisan support because he needs bipartisan support.

    It’s obvious that the Gateway Project is a political bargaining chip to get four Democratic senators (NY & NJ) to vote yes on it. This is politics; not an abandoned campaign promise.

    1. No it’s not Pat, it’s for 2018 candidates in red states to promise jobs that don’t and will never exist. As soon as they get re-elected the money will comeback or be removed due to “budget constraints”

  4. lol. Are you seriously just now realizing how government works? And if something can “likely come back to life”, your clear and dire “it was killed!” pronouncement is meaningless and, dare I say, “fake”. But at least you know how political rhetoric works as you could just as easily have headed this diatribe of a blog post with “Schumer kills project”, which would also have been as fake and partisan as the one you went with. Classic example of the left’s continual deranged desire to always frame things in a way to falsely show how evil and uncaring and inhuman the incarnated devil Trump is. You’re just much more clumsy at it than the actual political MSM who do it for a living. You should try to stick to miles and points and leave the slightly less incoherent anti-Trump diatribes to the “professionally”-trained deranged media.

    1. It was killed in 2010 by Christie. Maybe it comes back in 2018. Maybe it doesn’t. But decades of planning work is dead right now. Playing political games when everyone agrees that the work needs to be done ends up wasting far more money that the bullshit “negotiations” save over the years of these projects.

      As for claiming that Schumer killed it, I’m not sure how that works. The only thing that’s changed since the agreement was reached 2 years ago is the Fed’s decision to kill funding.

    1. Actually, Seth falsely attacked Trump. It’s called “defending” when you respond to attacks. The left can’t seem to get much of anything right.

      1. What attack on trump…? The thing the “right” seems to have the biggest problem with these days is distinguishing between stating a fact and misrepresenting it as fake news or some imaginary attack on your glorious leader.

      2. Where’s the false attack?

        Was the funding pulled? (Yes.)
        Does that kill the project as it currently stands? (Yes.)
        Was the FTA responsible for that? (Yes.)
        Did that happen under the Trump Administration? (Yes.)

        Nothing false at all.

  5. Yet another selfish, short-sighted move from this administration. Based on this and other actions, Trump must not want to return to the NYC area after he leaves the WH.

    1. That’s how you know they are sociopaths. It’s like Jared and Ivanka thinking they can move into northwest DC and be welcomed. Most people view them as trash. You can’t behave as they do and expect educated, thoughtful people to be anything other than revolted by you.

    1. Some of which don’t even make sense. Did we read that right that validating parking for employees and charity under $24,000 is no longer deductible!?

    2. Jeremy Kenter A mix of federal and state funds, just like every other major infrastructure project in the country.
      The $12bn number comes from several sources, including the Trump Administration’s top 50 critical infrastructure projects list (link/image of such in the post).
      Yes, the US government carries a debt. That’s not necessarily bad.

      Slashing corporate taxes while screwing millions of individuals to increase that debt by $1.5 trillion over 10 years is bad. Paying for desperately needed infrastructure projects, improving healthcare and other things that societies are supposed to provide for their citizens is a good way to spend money.

      1. According to you. After all, politics is about prioritizing.

        You people would hate oxygen if Trump said he liked it. It’s extremely childish, as is the headline on this post.

    3. Jeremy Kenter Where did the Republicans come up with the $1.5 Trillion they just voted to add to the debt? Make it $1.488 Trillion instead and bingo there’s your $12B for much needed infrastructure that will result in hundreds of thousands of NJers to be able to keep commuting into NY

    4. Ah yes, the acclaimed economic guru Ben Shapiro. Give me a break. Anyway, all these tax cuts (plus Bush’s tax cuts) plus the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars were all not paid for. Adding trillions to the debt. How irresponsible! How is that conservative fiscal policy… but hey, Ben Shapiro writes about liberal years so you seem to be happy with it.

    5. Hate to break it to you, Jeremy, but there is such a thing as responsible debt. The US doesn’t pay interest at the usurious rates that CCs charge. It is far more akin to taking out a mortgage or auto loan at a responsible rate. Do you really believe that home mortgages are a terrible thing?

      As for the tax cut bit, I’ll take the independent analysis of the JCT (https://www.jct.gov/) and also include the impact to healthcare costs. I understand if you don’t want to consider the real impact to people based on the changes they will experience between their total liability today versus next year and the rest of the coming decade but that’s not the data I’m willing to work with.

    6. Brian podolsky you my friend don’t know anything about politics unfortunately. Our president just admitted that out post office is run so poorly and basically bankrupt. This is a well known fact for many years.

    7. Congress passed a law in 2006 that said the postal service had to prefund 75 years of future pension benefits in a 10 year window. That is a major cause of their budgetary and default issues. Private corporations don’t have to do this. Our President lies every day about almost everything. That is a well known fact for many months.

      1. Brian Podolsky, you have some of the facts but not all. The USPS overpaid the Gov’t based on poor estimates and they refuse to return the money so they can apply it correctly to fix the operating issues in their business. This is the cause of there pension issue so they agreed to make the shortfall up over 10 years. The place where the Congress erred in the Pre-Funding of retirements is that they figured all postal retirees as Civil Service Retirement Service (CSRS). This is incorrect. The number of CSRS employees is a declining balance. The majority of Postal employees are FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System). The FERS system requires the employees to pay a portion of their own retirement. while CSRS does not! If you take away the 90 percent that are FERS you come out with an enormous cost savings to the Postal Service.

        As for the Labor cost being 80 percent of the total outlays is also incorrect. The actual cost of labor is about 20 percent. Transportation is costing the Postal Service about 57 percent of the total. Buildings and overhead are costing the remaining 23 percent! Leave it to the management and the Congress to lie about anything and everything!

        Finally, Trump complains about the poor deal with the Amazon but most companies today use Customer Lifetime Value(CLV) as the barometer so I’m sure when they renegotiate the contract, they get a bump for inflation, etc.

    8. Considering we know you probably voted for the losing candidate. And continue to cry about fake news. Even CNN admits that he’s doing a good job and following what he said he would do.
      I can quote many examples.

    9. I honestly hate these arguments because no one will change their mind, but you are one who literally complained above “Again- fake news- virtually everyone gets a tax cut”. I’m done, and sorry Seth for filling up your post with this. Happy New Year all.

    10. Jeremy Kenter this childish behavior is what is growingly becoming a problem in our society. Platitudes and name calling is something adults don’t resort to.

    11. Jeremy Kenter: A few thoughts to consider….
      1) You seem to be satisfied with the new tax bill but also opposed to debt. How do you reconcile that inherent conflict?

      2) Regarding the USPS, it has public service obligations that private companies do not. It is as much an infrastructure project as it is a delivery service. Expecting it to run profitably is likely to lead to disappointment.

      Also, it is worth pointing out that Trump’s claim about the USPS is that it does not charge Amazon & others enough for the last mile delivery service. My understanding is that the package delivery arm of the operation is profitable so that’s not where the revenue shortfall is. Would we call it a lie? Probably not. But it is certainly a disingenuous presentation of information; more a lie of omission than an outright falsehood. The net effect is still the same, however, misleading and projecting blame where it likely doesn’t belong.

      3) Coming back to infrastructure, where this discussion started, the comment made on 18 December about the Amtrak derailment is another example of misleading statements. Trump suggests that the new infrastructure plan is desperately needed to repair crumbling systems while ignoring that the accident happened on newly refreshed rails, a major infrastructure project that was jointly funded by the Feds and States, just like the Gateway Program should be. He also neglects to mention that the proposal calls for CUTTING funding for rail projects, not raising it. Hard to see how he plans to get better systems for less money.

      4) As for an outright lie, take “We have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.” Uttered late last week in West Palm Beach that statement is demonstrably false. But feel free to try to explain how that’s not a lie.

      1. Seth, Jeremy’s an idiot, right? Some people are so clueless trying to educate them is a farce…
        It’s always best to let ignorant people remain ignorant…I’m okay if he stays the course with his line of thinking.
        They’ll learn the truth the hard way next year.

    12. The post office is not supposed to be run the way a private business should. A private business is in the business of operating in the black first and providing goods and services second. It would be nuts for a private entity to deliver first class mail to rural Alaska for the same price as 5th Avenue and 57th Street. But, that’s what the postal service does. And we take it for granted that the system works almost every time.

    13. Ted Shevlin is it okay for the post office to lose 5 billion dollars annually? As a business owner, my hard earned money is going to taxes to fund such an inefficient organization.
      Curious what you do for a living.

    1. I live here and depend on that tunnel infrastructure. But, sure, dismiss those concerns out of hand. Not like killing infrastructure investment hasn’t already led to people dying. We should definitely not worry about more of that.

  6. I look for travel tips, not Left-Wing bias. Spare us, please, or we won’t waste our time reading your blog.

    1. If you can’t handle a blog post full of facts that affect the blogger in his daily life, get your handouts elsewhere. I in no way speak for this blog, I just can’t stand the asshole who feels his free readership warrants any kind of editorial oversight.

    1. So you are okay with people breaking the law? We have laws, a constitution. Try reading it when you are done wasting my time. Illegal immigration is ILLEGAL. Nothing to do with xenophobia.

    2. Jeremy: Nice job replying in the wrong place. And not answering the question posed. Asking me “When did you stop beating your wife?” is likely to result in similarly useless answers.

      I’m not endorsing illegal immigration. I’m pointing out that building a wall on the US-Mexico border is a waste of money that won’t actually change the flow of people. Lots of data available on that.

    3. Sorry, Jeremy, but I’m no longer going to allow you to post random rants in this conversation. Engage in the actual discussion or go away. But littering this with links/comments irrelevant to the questions/points being discussed will not happen.

  7. The comment about the USPS scares me. It lays the groundwork for using the same logic about the internet and the seemingly growing shift away from net neutrality. If Amazon is utilizing more of the USPS infrastructure and the argument that they should be more (despite the additional marginal cost per unit), seems to lend itself to the argument in support of killing net neutrality. That seems bad to me.

    1. Why should a NY resident pay for highways in Montana? Like most major infrastructure projects, the costs are shared because the value is shared. Even if only locals ride through the tunnel the benefits of having that tunnel exist extend well beyond the people riding through it.

      The lack of a legitimate national transportation infrastructure policy and funding plan is an embarrassment. And this is a step backwards from that.

    2. It’s a rail project in union and Democrat heavy New York and New Jersey, facts that matter to someone making an accurate report. But don’t let that get in your way.

    3. I’m not arguing that it will be expensive. That’s not something that will be fixed in a short term. But the construction is necessary. Allowing the tunnel to continue crumbling and to reduce the flow of people across the Hudson is a massive economic disaster – and also potentially a human one – waiting to happen.

      And remember that the work could already be 7 years in progress if Christie hadn’t decided to kill it at the beginning of the decade. Continuing to play games with people like this is bad policy across the board.

    4. I don’t see what Democrats have to do with anything. Should we in NY/NJ refuse to pay for anything in red states because we can’t stand conservatives? That’s not how this union works.

    5. I thought we were about to get an infrastructure program. What exactly would that entail if it doesn’t include this program? I have a hard time imagining a program more needed that affects more people. Looks like Republicans are gearing up to spend infrastructure money on bridges to nowhere in Alaska. The fact is infrastructure money is needed most in places with high concentrations of population, with more public transit – bridges, tunnels, etc. The preponderance of those places are actually in blue states. But it shouldn’t be partisan (I know that is hopelessly naive). It should be based on a rank ordering of projects with the highest ROI. And it was be hard to imagine the tunnel project not being very high on the ROI list.

    6. The Gateway Tunnel project is the TOP priority on the list, Jeffrey. That’s what makes this so stupid. It is not about making sure that the work gets done. It is about petty politicking.

  8. Yes its always over-budget and takes an eternity to build when the Govt is in control. So they want to build more. How about, its too crowded?? If NY wasnt so overcrowded there wouldnt be a need for another tunnel. And the issue of NJ workers also work in NY so rush hour is a horror. I dont know the answer being raised a NY’er myself, but there is just too many people. Thats why I moved to Colorado. My stress level is much lower! Still love my home town, but the amount of people shouldnt be growing like this when there is barely any more room to build more houses. Where are these people living??

    1. Sorry, but you cannot just decide to take half of the NYC area and move those people somewhere else in the country and expect that to work.

      Glad you are feeling better not living here, but that’s not a real answer to infrastructure planning.

    2. And it’s not “another” tunnel; it’s much more of a replacement tunnel. The existing one is a century old and was badly damaged by super-storm Sandy in 2012. Yeah, 5+ years ago and still not properly repaired. Trains have to run their windshield wipers when they cross under the Hudson River because so much water is leaking through the tunnel roof. This is an intolerable situation.

    3. Bit of both, Bruce. They’ll fix the old one and add additional tracks as well. The repairs were needed well before Sandy (and Christie killed that project); the storm made it more critical.

    4. Also, FWIW, the RTD program to connect the Denver airport to downtown via rail was funded in part by federal grants (not sure where in CO you are but that’s the easiest quick example I can pull up). Federal funding is used all over the country for important infrastructure projects. That is good for the country and this project is no different. Except that the Trump administration sees an opportunity to play political games with it and is seizing that. Risk be damned.

    5. people are moving to New York because it is such an attractive place to live and has so much to offer. It’s called the free market. And housing is built to accommodate demand and overall supply and demand set market prices. It’s called the free market. And tremendously valuable economic activity takes place here otherwise people wouldn’t be able to afford the prices for residences. It’s called the free market. Something conservatives profess to believe in until it is about them personally when all their principles go out the window. Money spent on infrastructure that supports millions of people is incredibly efficient and has a very high ROI, just what we should be spending our money on.

    6. Fewer people are using USPS than before, we will have drones sooner than you think and pre-funding these absurd pensions is outrageous and should be outlawed. There is no reason to lose $5 billion annually.

    7. Jeffrey Waters Seth Miller Our highways, bridges and roadways are in major need of repair. I believe I’ve read that some will literally collapse if we don’t do anything in the near future. But unfortunately, I cannot trust the NYC Government who cannot even run the subway system efficiently, or airports for that matter. How many years and how much tax payer money will be wasted renovating LGA? Having relocated to Florida, I enjoy only paying FICA and NOT income tax. I own a business for more than five years and contribute to this great country. Our government needs to cut spending across the board, not increase it even in spite of infrastructure needs. Did you complain when President Obama did essentially nothing to repair the roads in our country over eight years? He allowed illegal immigrants, porous borders where drugs and more illegal immigrants are smuggled on a daily basis. Now, go watch Netflix shows called Dope, Cartel Land among others and see how bad the situation is. Drug abuse is off the chart. Fentonyl is literally taking lives by the day. You guys are focused on a twitter account?? And Seth Miller we have a balanced budget amendment in the constitution. Yet no government on either side wants to ever follow it. A company can carry reasonable debt. But a government who’s sole responsibility is police, firefighters, roads, etc should NEVER have 20 trillion dollars of debt that it will clearly never pay off. Why hasn’t anyone audited the FED? You know why…Because half the jobs would be axed overnight. There is so much wasteful spending.

    8. Wasteful spending at the Fed? I’ve heard alot of reasons to audit the Fed but this is a completely new and totally off base one.

  9. Does anyone on this site know how the US actually works? Some of these comments are so uninformed!

Comments are closed.

BoardingArea