Bill mirrors measure approved by NY Assembly committee; goal is to enact critical legislation this month in both states
Trenton – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Transportation Committee Chair Patrick Diegnan and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean today introduced legislation to establish a Gateway Development Commission to oversee planning, funding and construction of new rail tunnels and other projects that will double trans-Hudson rail capacity and provide one-seat rides to Manhattan on all NJ Transit lines.
The bipartisan bill, S-3918, is identical to legislation introduced in New York by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. Assemblywoman Paulin’s bill was approved by her committee this morning by a 19-6 vote.
“Our introduction of this bill today is an important step as we work cooperatively with Assemblywoman Paulin, our two governors, Amtrak and other interested parties to pass legislation in both states by the end of the month,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “While negotiations on potential amendments are continuing, we are confident we will reach a resolution that meets the needs of our region and our nation, just as we did with the bistate working group on the Port Authority Bus Terminal expansion that New York Congressman Jerry Nadler and I co-chaired. I congratulate and thank Assemblywoman Paulin and her team for their achievement in committee today.”
The bistate legislation would create a nine-member commission to oversee the Gateway project, require each state to pay 50 percent of the combined New Jersey-New York share of the project, provide for legislative oversight, set strict standards of transparency and accountability, and provide gubernatorial veto powers over commission actions. These provisions mirror Port Authority legislation and by-laws.
“The success of the Gateway program, which will be the largest public works project of the last hundred years and one which is vital for the region’s economic success, obviously depends not only on funding but on transparent management,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This bill provides the structural framework for the project to move ahead as soon as funding is secured and contains the accountability and oversight standards we’ve fought to apply to other agencies.”
“We have been working cooperatively for years on a bipartisan basis to advance the Gateway project,” said Senator Kean (R-Union). “We are in a race against time to build new tunnels before the century-old tunnels ravaged by Sandy are forced to close for repairs, which would cut NJ Transit trans-Hudson rail capacity by 75 percent and cripple our region’s economy. But just as important is the long-term increase in capacity that new tunnels would create, which will finally provide a one-seat ride to Manhattan for all New Jersey rail riders, including those on the Raritan Valley Line.”
The proposed legislation establishes the Gateway Development Commission as a partnership among New Jersey, New York State and Amtrak to oversee the planning, funding and construction of the new Hudson River rail tunnels, repair of the existing tunnels, construction of a New York Penn Station South for NJ Transit trains, the construction of the Portal North and Portal South rail bridges, replacement of the Sawtooth rail bridge, the addition of two more Northeast Corridor rail tracks between Newark and Secaucus, and construction of the Bergen Loop to enable one-seat rides on all NJ Transit trains to Manhattan.
The legislation requires collective voting by Gateway commissioners from New York, New Jersey and Amtrak, and requires the agreement of a majority of commissioners from all three entities. The bill also gives the New Jersey and New York governors the power to veto agency actions — a power the governors have over the Port Authority and other bistate agencies.
The transparency, accountability, financial disclosure, open public records and open public meetings requirements in the legislation are patterned after those in place at the Port Authority, and the bill requires the agency to follow existing procurement, prevailing wage and property acquisition laws.
The bill requires the commission’s chair or vice-chair and senior executives to appear at legislative hearings, and requires annual financial reporting and audits.
“We need to get the Gateway project moving and this bill provides a strong framework to ensure that the project is done right,” said Senator Weinberg. “When federal funding is finally approved, we will have the right agency and people in place to plan, build and manage the largest and most important mass transit project in the nation.”