Renewed rail tunnel project could boost Philly

    New Jersey lawmakers this morning announced plans for a new tunnel project under the Hudson River that could eventually accommodate high speed rail.  The $10 billion “Gateway” tunnel would closely resemble the planned Hudson-River commuter-train tunnel canceled by Governor Christie. 

    Paul Levy, President of Center City District in Philadelphia, held a forum in December convening experts on rail travel.  They convinced him that national investment in rail travel could boost the region economically.

    “The long-term plans for high speed rail, which could be ten years in the future, contemplate a new station at Market Street East,” said Levy.  “And under that plan, the idea would be that you could get from Philadelphia to Manhattan in 37 minutes.  That’s a total game changer for the city.”

    Right now, tickets on Amtrak’s Acela Express train are as much as $300  to New York and the trip still takes an hour and 11 minutes. 

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    Levy says any project that alleviates congestion getting into Manhattan means more people will be willing to commute to New York from Philadelphia.  He also says it could boost tourism.  But, he says, it will take a big push from the government to create meaningful change.

    “We can have high speed rail, we can have enough cars if nationally this becomes a sufficient priority; that we see improving competitiveness and reducing energy consumption as a priority for the nation,” he said.

    Amtrak is paying $50 million for engineering work.  There is no plan yet for coming up with the $10 billion  needed to dig the tunnel.

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