The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and NJ TRANSIT are preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the Hudson Tunnel Project (the Project). The EIS is being prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and FRA is the lead federal agency providing oversight and responsibility for the final decision on project implementation. The preparation of the EIS is being managed by NJ TRANSIT as a joint lead agency.
The Project is intended to preserve the current functionality of the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York and strengthen the resilience of the NEC. The Project would consist of construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, including railroad infrastructure in New Jersey and New York connecting the new rail tunnel to the existing NEC and rehabilitation of the existing NEC tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
The existing NEC rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River is known as the North River Tunnel. This tunnel is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and by NJ TRANSIT for commuter rail service. The tunnel has two separate tubes, each accommodating a single track for electrically powered trains, and extends approximately 2.5 miles from the tunnel portal in North Bergen, NJ to Penn Station New York, NY.
Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 damaged the North River Tunnel, and today the tunnel remains compromised. The North River Tunnel is currently safe for use by Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT trains traveling between New Jersey and New York City and beyond. However, it is in poor condition as a result of the storm damage and has required emergency maintenance that disrupts service for hundreds of thousands of rail passengers throughout the region. Despite the ongoing maintenance, the damage caused by the storm continues to degrade systems in the tunnel and can only be addressed through a comprehensive reconstruction of the tunnel.
The Project would rehabilitate the North River Tunnel without disrupting existing levels of train service, and provide redundant capability for rail service crossing the Hudson River. To perform the needed rehabilitation in the existing North River Tunnel, each tube of the tunnel will need to be closed for more than a year. However, rehabilitation needs to be accomplished without unacceptable reductions in weekday service. Therefore, the Project would first include construction of a new tunnel with two new rail tubes beneath the Hudson River (the “Hudson Tunnel”) that can maintain the existing level of train service while the damaged tubes in the North River Tunnel are taken out of service one at a time for rehabilitation. Once the North River Tunnel rehabilitation is complete, both the old and new tunnel will be in service, providing redundant capacity and increased operational flexibility for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT.
On July 6, 2017, FRA and NJ TRANSIT made the Draft EIS available, which outlines the Preferred Alternative as well as the evaluation of a No Action Alternative. With the Preferred Alternative for the Hudson Tunnel Project, FRA and NJ TRANSIT recommend construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and rehabilitation of the existing tunnel. FRA and NJ TRANSIT accepted public comments on the Draft EIS from July 7, 2017 through August 21, 2017. FRA and NJ TRANSIT hosted three public meetings on the Draft EIS: August 1, 2017 in New York, NY; August 3, 2017 in Secaucus, NJ; and August 10, 2017 in Union City, NJ.
The Preferred Alternative identifies a specific alignment that includes two new tracks extending from the Northeast Corridor in Secaucus, NJ, continuing in a tunnel beneath the Palisades and beneath the Hudson River. From there, it will connect to the existing approach tracks that lead into New York’s Penn Station. The recommendation also includes the rehabilitation of the existing North River Tunnel once the new tunnel is complete. The new tunnel would be constructed first so that upon completion, trains could be diverted from the existing tunnel to allow its rehabilitation. When the rehabilitation is complete, both the existing and new tunnels would be in service, providing redundant capability and increased operational flexibility for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT.
FRA is also currently working with NJ TRANSIT and with cooperating and participating agencies in the project to review all comments received during the Draft EIS comment period and to develop a Final EIS. Additionally, FRA continues to consult with stakeholders in the process to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act in order to evaluate effects on historic and cultural resources.
The Notice of Intent announcing the preparation of an EIS for this project as well as the initiation of scoping was published in the Federal Register on May 2, 2016. A scoping document was made available online and in repositories within the study area.
In October 2016, FRA and NJ TRANSIT published the Scoping Summary Report that describes the full scoping process as well as summarizes the comments received and their responses. Additionally, in October 2016, FRA and NJ TRANSIT invited the public to learn more about the Preferred Alternative for the Hudson Tunnel Project at two public meetings in November 2016. The two meetings—on November 10th and November 17th in Secaucus, NJ and New York City, NY, respectively—were an opportunity for the public and stakeholders to learn and ask questions about the project developments and the Preferred Alternative. No formal presentations were given.
For more information about the project, scoping period, and other project documents, please visit the NJ TRANSIT project website at www.hudsontunnelproject.com.
The U.S. Permitting Dashboard is an online tool for Federal agencies, project sponsors, and interested members of the public to track the Federal government’s environmental review and authorization processes for large or complex infrastructure projects. The Dashboard is part of a government-wide effort to improve coordination, transparency, and accountability. A link to this project’s page on the Dashboard is below.