City leaders push for construction of tunnel under New York Harbor

More than 70 years after it was first proposed, plans for a $2 billion rail freight tunnel under New York Harbor could be underway, if approved by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

MoveNY, an initiative for the construction of such a tunnel, has gained popularity recently from prominent leaders in the city’s business, labor and urban planning sectors. The project’s supporters say the tunnel would ease the city’s truck congestion that clogs highways and bridges.

According to MoveNY, the a tunnel would remove approximately 14.9 million tons of freight from the area’s roads and bridges annually. This would cut costs from road construction and upkeep. New York City is the only major city in the country where the majority of freight comes in and out by truck.

Supporters say another reason for the tunnel, prompted by 9/11, is safety. According Frank McArdle, co-chairman of MoveNY, the tunnel could provide an extra venue for goods and supplies if another attack occurred.

“I’d like to think that the events of September 11th have made it very crystal clear that we could easily get cut off from the mainland,” McArdle told Newsday.

But the $2 billion price tag is one challenge that is hard to overlook. MoveNY hopes to use funding from the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which proposed a total of $247 billion for a six-year period. The original TEA-21 is set to expire Sept. 30, but Congress is working on a new version to cover 2004 through 2009.

Many, however, are skeptical that the project will ever occur. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was first authorized in the 1920s to construct a tunnel under New York Harbor, but instead became involved in projects such as the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. City leaders and project supporters hope this time, history won’t be repeated.