The agency's approval also paves the way for as much as $3billion in federal aid to get the tunnel done, a sum that is stillbeing negotiated. The local $5.7-billion share of the total costhas already been lined up, including $3 billion from the PortAuthority of NY/NJ and the rest from the state via NJ Transit.

"Our customers are eager for us to get started because theyunderstand the impact of this project," says NJ Transit executivedirector Richard Sarles, who projects a late-2009 constructionstart and a 2017 completion. "More than doubling train capacity toand from New York in peak periods translates into time savings,better service reliability, more travel options andconvenience."

MTT will consist of two single-track tunnels that will roughlyparallel the existing, 100-year-old, two-track tunnel under theHudson River. By the numbers, the current capacity of 23 trains perhour would be more than doubled to 48 and the current load of about170,000 passengers daily would be increased to more than 250,000trips each workday. NJ Transit officials estimate that theincreased rail capacity will eventually eliminate 22,000 automobiletrips daily.

In terms of employment, the MTT project is expected to createbetween 40,000 and 50,000 construction and related jobs between nowand the anticipated 2017 completion date. NJ Transit officials alsoestimate that it will result in 44,000 permanent jobs once thetunnel is in service, and construction itself is projected togenerate $4 billion in new personal income and $10 billion in grossregional product.

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