Photo: MTA / Patrick-Cashin

Gateway must proceed as quickly as possible, but the project won’t be enough to address the region’s trans-Hudson needs.

Despite existing train tunnels being at capacity for a long time, and flooding from Superstorm Sandy accelerating the need to conduct extensive repairs to them, the Gateway project is not expected to be completed until 2026 at the earliest. Considering the daily delays NJ Transit commuters and Amtrak travelers suffer every day, this is simply unacceptable.

What’s more, the Gateway project as planned—with service terminating at Penn Station—will not by itself provide enough long-term capacity or connectivity for a growing metropolitan region. Instead of stopping at Penn Station, Gateway should continue across Manhattan and under the East River, and connect to the Amtrak rail yards in Sunnyside, Queens. A through-running operation would allow trains to run much closer together, increasing the capacity of the station by 30 percent or more.

Instead of terminating at Penn Station, Gateway should be extended to Sunnyside Yards in western Queens to provide Crosstown Service

As critical as it is to get the Gateway tunnels under construction as soon as possible, the project should be modified to extend through Manhattan and into Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

By providing crosstown service, passengers could travel directly between New Jersey and Long Island, thus increasing regional connectivity while also drastically increasing the capacity of the investment. A through-running configuration, with fewer and wider platforms at Penn Station, would allow for an additional six to nine trains per hour under the Hudson River on top of the additional 24 trains the new Gateway tunnels would allow. These 30-33 trains represent up to a 68 percent increase of what can run under the East River today.

This additional capacity could be used to provide new rail service in parts of New Jersey that are currently reliant on commuter buses (Bergen Loop). Old rail lines in Middlesex, Ocean, and Monmouth counties could be reactivated and connected into the NJ Transit system and Manhattan—greatly improving commuting times and reducing vehicular traffic in New Jersey and across the river.

Building crosstown tracks would also provide additional redundancy across the East River in the event service in the existing tunnels were disrupted.

Extending the Gateway tunnels east to Sunnyside Yards in Queens will allow through running service from New Jersey to Long Island. Source: RPA

Build a station at Third Avenue

A new rail station should be built at 31st Street and Third Avenue to provide New Jersey commuters better access to the region’s greatest concentration of jobs, in East Midtown. This station could also ultimately serve as a major hub station linking crosstown into the larger regional rail system proposed in this plan.

Use the new through-running tracks for freight during off-hours

Gateway East could become an important intra-regional freight rail line by connecting New Jersey’s rail freight network and the Ports Newark and Elizabeth with the Lower Montauk freight line in Queens. This would allow goods currently carried by trucks from New Jersey to Queens and Brooklyn to be shipped overnight via rail, thus reducing the number of noisy and polluting trucks crossing the two rivers and traveling through New York City.

At least one tunnel should be constructed to accommodate rail cars with a height clearance of up to 21 feet to enable the operation of freight during off-hours.


By increasing the passenger capacity of the proposed rail tunnels across the Hudson River, Gateway East would support additional employment growth in Manhattan and distribute benefits to New Jersey and other parts of the region. By providing more rail service, it also supports a region with more sustainable land use and energy use, and jobs in locations that can be accessed by a larger number of neighborhoods and residents. Specifically, the project would bring about the following benefits to the region’s residents:

  • Direct access to the east side of Manhattan for New Jersey residents
  • New direct rail service from Bergen, Passaic, Rockland, and Orange counties
  • Expansion of rail service in Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties
  • Substantial reduction in both the number of cars and commuter buses traversing the Hudson River, and congestion and pollution in New Jersey and Manhattan
  • Redundancy in the event of a catastrophic event (flooding, terrorism, etc.)
  • The opportunity to create an intra-regional freight rail service that would reduce the number of trucks traversing major vehicular water crossings and New York City

Paying for It

The Gateway Project as currently conceived is expected to cost $24-29 billion, including $17 billion for the tunnels alone. Turning it into a real crosstown service by extending tracks to Sunnyside Yards would add $4 billion in construction costs, plus indirect costs that can be as high as the construction costs. Like other major capital investments, a key to financing crosstown is to reduce the cost of building big rail projects.

Some of the revenue needed could come from new real estate development near the new Third Avenue station on the east side of Manhattan or a ticket surcharge, but most would require a new revenue source, such as carbon pricing or new tolling.