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Chao confirms Trump opposes Hudson rail tunnel project

By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor

A House committee hearing yesterday on President Donald Trump's infrastructure proposal led to some tense exchanges between U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and lawmakers from New York and New Jersey over the administration's support of the Hudson River rail tunnel replacement project.

Chao appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to answer committee members' questions about the president's plan to overhaul the nation's infrastructure, including transportation.

U.S. Reps Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) and Sean Patrick Malone (D-N.Y.) pressed Chao specifically about whether the Trump administration would follow through with an agreement between the Obama administration and the two states to split the cost of the tunnel project. The congressmen believe that the states and the U.S. Department of Transportation had a deal in which the states would cover 50 percent of the project's cost and the federal government would pick up the other 50 percent.

Chao reiterated points made earlier by the Trump administration that there is no documented agreement between the USDOT, New York and New Jersey to split the project's cost. She also said the states have not officially submitted a proposal for federal funding for the project.

The supposed funding plan has resulted in a lot of "misinformation," Chao said, adding that the two states had committed just 5 percent toward the project's cost.

Later, Maloney asked Chao specifically whether last weekend's Washington Post article — which reported that Trump had asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to block federal funding for the $12.9 billion tunnel project — was true.

"It probably is," Chao responded.

"Is the president of the United States personally intervening with the speaker to kill this project?" Maloney asked in a followup.

"Yes, the president is concerned about the viability of this project and the fact that New York and New Jersey have no skin in the game. They need to step up. They are two of the richest states in the country, and if they absorb all of these [federal] funds, there will be no other funds for the rest of the country," Chao said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/7/2018