By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
A meeting last week of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners resulted in some exciting news for Rockland County residents who commute to New York City. Among other actions, the commissioners announced a joint financial commitment of $70 million to fast-track the permitting process for the Gateway Tunnel Project.
In addition to new tunnels under the Hudson River, the Gateway program includes a provision known as the Bergen Loop, which would allow riders on the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines to travel directly to and from Manhattan without having to transfer. The $70 million will be split evenly between the Port Authority and Amtrak, and will be used for preliminary engineering to advance the estimated $20 billion project, including the much-deserved and long-awaited one-seat-ride to New York City.
As I have long maintained, a bi-state, bi-partisan effort must bring this key regional mass transit link to fruition. The U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Port Authority have already committed to the project. Governor Cuomo has started preparing a welcome for Gateway at a soon-to-be renovated Penn Station in New York. And, transportation agency leaders from the MTA and New Jersey Transit have long acknowledged that investing in Gateway and the Bergen Loop is vital to the continued economic viability of the entire metropolitan area.
With no direct rail service to Manhattan, congested Hudson River crossings, and the County’s population expected to increase nearly 13% over the next 20 years, improving Rockland’s commute to our region’s economic core is more vital than ever. While a new Tappan Zee Bridge and its bus rapid transit will certainly ease the commute from Rockland to Westchester, it doesn’t help the thousands of local residents who drive into Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn every day. Not to mention, we still don’t know the cost of the new Tappan Zee toll!
I take seriously my responsibility as the County’s Chief Economic Development Officer. And, I will continue to ensure that we have an economic vibrancy that stems the demand of higher taxes. Part of this includes improving our well-being through job creation and job retention. A one-seat ride to Manhattan will go a long way toward securing additional investment and improving our local quality of life. A completed Bergen Loop will also greatly enhance our attractiveness to homebuyers, leading to higher property values for all of us.
With the Bergen Loop now moving forward, I am calling upon the MTA to dedicate funds to the Gateway project, as it did for the Secaucus Transfer project, to help bridge Rockland County’s well-known value gap between the hefty transit investment we make to the region’s transit system each year and the level of service and funding we receive in return.
Thanks to my administration’s hard-nosed negotiations with the MTA, Rockland County is now closer than ever to securing that elusive one-seat ride into Manhattan. Know that I will keep fighting to get this done for our commuters – and, local taxpayers!