Amtrak chief predicts more delays in aging, damaged Hudson rail tunnel

 This April 2014 photo shows ongoing construction of a rail tunnel, left, at the Hudson Yards redevelopment site on Manhattan's west side in New York.  Amtrak is constructing an 800-foot-long concrete box inside the project to preserve space for a tunnel from Newark to New York City that would allow it to double rail capacity across the Hudson River. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

This April 2014 photo shows ongoing construction of a rail tunnel, left, at the Hudson Yards redevelopment site on Manhattan's west side in New York. Amtrak is constructing an 800-foot-long concrete box inside the project to preserve space for a tunnel from Newark to New York City that would allow it to double rail capacity across the Hudson River. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

An Amtrak executive is apologizing for delays last month caused by problems in Hudson River rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York.

Amtrak’s vice president of the Northeast Corridor told a New Jersey Senate committee that mechanical and electrical problems in the 105-year-old tunnel caused the delays.

And more delays are possible because flooding during Superstorm Sandy deposited salts that are causing electric cables to deteriorate, Stephen Gardner said Monday.

“Given the age, the ongoing damage from Superstorm Sandy, and the intense utilizations of these tunnels, issues like the recent disruptions are not likely to be entirely preventable and, in fact, may increase over time until the tunnel can be renewed and modernized,” Gardner said.

A new tunnel would allow the existing one to close for 18 months to make extensive repairs, he said.

He said the Gateway tunnel project would cost billions of dollars and probably would not be completed until 2025.

A federal railroad loan program could help New Jersey, New York, and Amtrak pay the 20 percent of the project’s costs that would not be funded by the federal government.

“It can provide dollars for projects like this where you might need upfront capital and you want to finance that over the term of 35 years,” Gardner said. “And it has the possibility that you don’t have to begin repayment for up to six years.”

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo said the state won’t be involved in a new tunnel project until it can replenish New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund.

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