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NEW YORK CITY-The board of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey yesterday authorized an initial allocation of $1 billion, and possibly another $1 billion before year’s end, to fund a project expanding train capacity under the Hudson River. The funding approval is a significant step for the proposed two-track tunnel, a massive project that has been discussed for more than a decade and would double commuter rail capacity between the two states in a decade.

“With this monetary commitment and the commitment made by [New Jersey] Gov. Jon Corzine, it shows Washington that local matching funds exist for the project,” a Port Authority spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “Right now there is a bottleneck from Newark to New York because the trains converge into one 100-year-old tunnel.”

The Port Authority’s 10-year strategic plan, adopted in December 2005, recognized the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel (THE Tunnel) as a project crucial to bi-state regional transportation, and this action follows that plan. The tunnel will more than double the NY-NJ train capacity from 23 to 48 trains per hour, according to the PA.

The THE Tunnel construction may begin as soon as 2009 and be completed by 2016. The price tag is $7.2 billion, according to Port Authority officials. The project took a step forward last week with the announcement by Corzine that the Federal Transit Administration will advance the THE Tunnel to the preliminary engineering phase of the federal “new starts” process–a significant step in acquiring federal funding. Preliminary engineering will begin next week and take up to 18 months.

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