The Draft Environmental Impact Statement review (DEIS) for the Hudson Tunnel Project was released July 6 and identifies a nearly $13-billion preferred alternative that would build a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York and rehabilitate the existing North River Tunnel.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) says the preferred alternative preserves the current functionality of the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York.
The existing NEC rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, known as the North River Tunnel, is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and New Jersey Transit for commuter rail service. Service reliability throughout the tunnel has been compromised because of the damage to tunnel components caused by Superstorm Sandy, which inundated both tubes in the North River Tunnel with seawater in October 2012. While the tunnel was restored to service and is now safe for travel, chlorides from the seawater remain in the tunnel’s concrete liner and bench walls, causing ongoing damage to various tunnel components and systems. The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy is compounded by the tunnel’s age and the intensity of its current use operating at full peak period capacity to meet current demands.
The DEIS notes that the plan includes construction of two new rail tubes in a single tunnel beneath the Hudson River that can maintain the existing level of train service while the North River Tunnel tubes are taken out of service one at a time for rehabilitation. Once the North River Tunnel restoration is complete, both old and new tunnels will be in service, providing redundant capability and increased operational flexibility. The cost to construct the double-track tunnel is estimated to be $11.1 billion while the cost to rehab the existing North River Tunnel is estimated to be $1.8 billion.
The U.S. Department of Transportation notes that the DEIS was completed in 14 months and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected to be issued in March 2018, approximately 22 months after initiation, demonstrating its commitment to streamline the project review process.
The comment period is open through Aug. 21 and there are three public hearings scheduled on the DEIS on Aug. 1, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10., after which FRA can finalize the EIS and issue a Record of Decision.