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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is in the "final chapters" of completing a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed replacement of Amtrak's Hudson River tunnels, FRA Administrator Ronald Batory told a U.S. Senate panel last week.Batory spoke to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which held a hearing to receive a status report on railroads' plans to implement positive train control (PTC). However, during his testimony, Batory was asked by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) when the FRA would complete its environmental review of the project to replace the deteriorating Hudson River rail tunnels between New Jersey and New York.Known as Amtrak's Gateway program, the proposed project would replace aging rail tunnels under the Hudson River that Amtrak and commuter trains use to operate between the two states. Gateway also includes replacing the decaying North Portal Bridge, of which New Jersey Transit is the largest user.The tunnel project "in many respects is as important to rail safety as any other issue facing us," Blumenthal told Batory. "There still is no final environmental impact statement and record of decision for the Gateway tunnel project."Batory noted that he asked for an update on the project soon after he joined the FRA earlier this year."We are in the final chapters of meeting the final EIS," Batory told Blumenthal. "I think you could see something forthcoming in the first- or second-quarter of next year."Blumenthal said that timeframe is "very vague.""Second quarter of next year is a very long time away," the senator said. "Respectfully, I realize that you personally can't produce [the EIS] alone, but [the project] is of vital national importance."Batory said he would get a more specific answer in writing to Blumenthal.For several years, Amtrak has called for government funding to help share the cost of replacing the decaying tunnels, which were heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Over the past year, the Trump administration has backed away from a federal financial commitment that was made during the Obama administration.
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