Batory nomination held as leverage for Gateway Program funding

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WASHINGTON — Four Democratic U.S. Senators have put on hold the confirmation of Ron Batory to head the Federal Railroad Administration, according to the Weekly Standard.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was joined by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Bob Menendez, D-N.J. in holding Batory's confirmation, along with two other senior Department of Transportation officials, to leverage a federal commitment on the Gateway Program, according to a story in the magazine's August 21/28 issue.

The program is a collection of projects to build and rehabilitate Northeast Corridor infrastructure in the New York — New Jersey region. The most critical projects are a new set of tunnels under the Hudson River, rehab of the existing tunnel, and replacing the 100-year-old Portal Bridge across the Hackensack River in New Jersey.

The magazine says that the senators are trying to get the federal government to hold to a commitment made in 2015 to fund the program on a 50-50 split with the states. But the commitment was never made into law, and the Trump administration's Department of Transportation finds no documents that would support the senators' claim.

In July, an environmental statement estimated the cost of the tunnels to be nearly $14 billion. New Jersey Transit, Gateway's program manager, was depending on a Federal Transit Administration Capital Improvement Grant to provide the funds. NJT has not received a full funding grant agreement that would assure funding. The administration's 2018 budget only provides funds for existing CIG projects.

House and Senate versions of a transportation department appropriations bill await action when Congress returns from its August recess. The bills differ on funding. The House bill provides $900 million to get the tunnel project under way, but the Senate bill does not match that amount.

The original story is available online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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