Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out this video in November 2018 as a way to try to get President Donald Trump to help fund a new tunnel between New York and New Jersey. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


It’s considered the most important infrastructure project in the Northeast and vital to the economies of New Jersey and New York.

But Gov. Phil Murphy was not present at a White House meeting Wednesday to discuss the Gateway project, which would replace an aging rail tunnel under the Hudson River used by more than 200,000 commuters daily.

Instead, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton, a Cuomo ally, did the talking with President Donald Trump.

"It was all positive," Cuomo said of the meeting. "It was all good. The president got it. He had a surprising amount of knowledge about the infrastructure projects we’ve done in New York."

The meeting also included White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Her department has walked back a handshake agreement between the federal government and New York and New Jersey from the Obama administration to fund half the new Gateway tunnel's $13 billion estimated cost.

The 108-year-old bore suffered extensive damage from seawater during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. If it is not replaced within the next decade, its owner, Amtrak, expects it may require emergency repairs that would severely constrain commuting capacity.

Murphy has spoken to Trump about the project, according to spokesman Dan Bryan.

Wednesday's White House meeting produced no new agreement on the tunnel. Still, Cuomo and Trump discussed the possibility of creating a public-benefit corporation to oversee the tunnel. That entity would include representatives from the two states and the federal government.

“There’s no Democratic or Republican way to fix a tunnel," Cuomo said. "The water comes in, the tunnel collapses. That’s not a Democratic or Republican problem.”

Except it is a New Jersey problem as well as a New York problem. Though former Gov. Chris Christie canceled a new Hudson River tunnel in 2010, he became supportive of its successor, Gateway, later in his term.

Gateway encompasses a series of projects to improve the reliability of Amtrak and NJ Transit rail service between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. Aside from the tunnel, it includes a new, higher Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. 

The current bridge swings open to accommodate barge traffic, and sometimes it doesn't close properly, leading to delays.

Jon Campbell of the USA TODAY Network's Albany Bureau contributed to this article.

NEW CONGRESS: NJ's 4 new House Democrats start fast. SALT cap repeal, Gateway funding, Pelosi decision

CHANGE COMING: How a changing Congress could put Gateway projects back on track

PIECES IN PLACE: There's no new Portal Bridge yet. But smaller pieces are falling into place

SKIN IN THE GAME: NJ Transit plan is 'a new ballgame' for Portal Bridge replacement, feds say

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