Last January, President Donald Trump declared in his inaugural address that improving national infrastructure would be a focus of his administration. As it turns out, this is yet another empty promise. The Gateway Program, a multi-billion dollar plan to replace the rail tunnel under the Hudson River to alleviate commuter traffic between New York and New Jersey, was launched under Barack Obama’s administration and was labeled an infrastructural priority. Amtrak, which owns the current, decaying tunnel under the Hudson River, said the new Hudson Rail Tunnel could reduce traffic between New York and New Jersey by as much as 75 percent. However, in April 2017, just months into his presidency, Trump, a native New Yorker, started a war on his home turf. He proposed a budget that slashed funding to the Gateway Program and several similar projects in cities like Los Angeles and Kansas City, insisting they should be funded locally.
Then in September 2017, Trump met with top political officials from New York and New Jersey to discuss the Gateway Program. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the meeting was inconclusive with regard to Trump’s stance on rebuilding the tunnel. But as rail lines between the two states remain congested with commuters, Trump is playing politics, urging Republicans in Congress to oppose funding for the Gateway Program simply because he believes it is important to top Democrats, particularly Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Trump has grown increasingly upset with Democrats in Congress under Schumer leadership for blocking his nominee picks to fill government positions. He is using the Gateway Program as political leverage.
The Hudson Rail Tunnel could be a great resource for NYU students and faculty — particularly those who commute from New Jersey. Trump’s petty vendetta to shut down the plan, really, just to bully Chuck Schumer, could place the undue burden on the thousands, if not millions of people who commute from New Jersey to New York every day.
The Gateway Program is an example of the government functioning as it should — alleviating simple, easily solvable problems to make the lives of the citizens that much easier. Though more costly than projected — estimates for the expenses near $30 billion rather than the projected $11 billion — the Gateway Program is well within the reach of the federal government’s budget.
His handling of the Gateway Program is yet another example of Trump stepping on his own toes and backpedalling on campaign promises to prove a point. Though certainly not his most malicious act as president, cutting funding to the Hudson Rail Tunnel project proves Trump’s carelessness as a leader — picking fights and deliberately undermining the legislative process at the expense of the people. Building a new tunnel under the Hudson River is far overdue and could be of great convenience to many in the NYU community and beyond, but the president is far more concerned with taunting Democrats than delivering on one of his most achievable promises.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, March 5 print edition. Email Ali Zimmerman at [email protected].