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Op-ed: Gateway is the most important infrastructure project in the nation. Why stop there?

by Carlo A. Scissura

Standing with our neighbors across the Hudson River in October 2021, President Joe Biden called out one of our nation’s most pressing crises in no uncertain terms: aging infrastructure. It’s more than an inconvenience or a nuisance—it’s an impediment to America’s global competitiveness.

One month later the president signed the monumental Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. It provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a better future; it was the most significant investment ($1.2 trillion) in communities and economic and workforce growth in our nation’s history.

In New York, we’ve been patiently waiting our turn to experience the transformative potential of the IIJA. You can find outdated infrastructure everywhere you look. Our once-revered subway system remains strained and inaccessible for too many. Our housing crisis is unprecedented, and conditions across our public-housing portfolio remain unacceptable. On top of everything else, we remain behind the eight-ball on preparing our neighborhoods for the devastating effects of climate change.

Vital projects that will redefine our city and state for generations to come are ready to roll and just waiting to receive the funding needed to spring into action. Recently, the president stood in Manhattan to initiate just that.

The Gateway program is the most important infrastructure project in the nation. Period. Once completed, Gateway will fully restore two rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey and construct two new tunnels, doubling transportation capacity for the busiest commuter corridor in the nation.

The existing tunnels are severely strained; they moved 200,000 passengers daily. Still reeling from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, they are compromised. But since the IIJA was signed into law, the tunnels under the Hudson River have remained untouched, with funding very slow to get out the door—until now.

I’ve been saying it for years: No infrastructure project anywhere in the United States stands to deliver more economic output, good jobs and quality-of-life benefits than Gateway. It will create more than 72,000 jobs, generate $19 billion in economic activity, increase long-term climate resiliency, and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of daily commuters. We are deeply grateful to the Biden administration and Sen. Charles Schumer, a longtime infrastructure ally, for getting it moving.

But Mr. President, while we have your attention in New York after your recent visit, there is a long list of deserving infrastructure projects that are shovel-ready and can have similar effects on livability, accessibility, equity and resiliency for our residents and neighbors. Like Gateway, they too need immediate action.

The list goes on

Federal support through the IIJA is essential to actualize transformative projects that can rewrite New York’s future. Getting the Interborough Express and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal, reimagining the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, renovating Penn Station, and expanding the Second Avenue subway would alleviate pressure on our transportation infrastructure and increase accessibility.

Tackling the New York City Housing Authority’s staggering capital needs would transform the lives of the 530,000 registered residents who call these buildings home. The Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed system of storm surge gates would save lives and protect the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods from rising sea levels.

The list goes on. We have our work cut out for us; implementing the IIJA is no small feat. Recently, the Building Congress launched our Infrastructure Action Council to help along the way. The IAC is composed of building industry leaders advocating, in Albany and Washington, D.C., expanded IIJA education and outreach, streamlined reviews and expedited funding, all with the goal of getting shovels in the ground faster.

For today, we celebrate the forward momentum gained on Gateway. Our IAC will work to keep Washington’s eye firmly fixed on New York’s next building boom.

Carlo A. Scissura is CEO of the New York Building Congress.

Published on

Feb 16, 2023 by New York Building Congress