$583M contract awarded for Hudson tunnel project

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 4:51 PM

NJ Transit's board on Wednesday unanimously approved the first tunneling contract for an $8.7 billion rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan that is the nation's largest transportation project.

The board approved a joint venture between Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont., and Judlau Contracting of New York for the $583 million contract to dig a mile-long tube in Manhattan. Groundbreaking will occur next year and the segment will take four to five years to complete, according to Dan Schall, Barnard's vice president.

The entire project is scheduled to be completed by 2017 and will add two rail lines into New York from New Jersey. NJ Transit officials have said it will allow them to more than double the number of trains during peak commute times, from 23 to 48.

The agency has estimated overall ridership into Manhattan could be boosted from 85,000 per day to 127,500.

Gov. Jon Corzine on Wednesday called the project "an engine for growth" that will create thousands of jobs.

Several speakers who spoke to the board during the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting said the project is too costly at a time when the state faces a projected $1 billion budget gap.

Corzine said afterward that part of the state's nearly depleted Transportation Trust Fund will be used but that those moneys would be repaid by future federal funds.

"There have always been pros and cons expressed about this," Corzine said. "The point is making sure we have the will and the resources to build a massively important contributor to improving the quality of life in the metro region and certainly for the state of New Jersey."

About $6 billion of the cost of the project will be split by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and federal mass transit funds, according to NJ Transit spokesman Paul Wyckoff. The rest will come from a different federal clean-air program and from $1.25 billion in existing toll hikes already approved by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, he said.

Judlau, located in Queens, is involved in several transportation projects in New York including a tunnel to connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal and restoring the lower deck of the Henry Hudson Bridge on the west side of the city.

Barnard has been involved in water and sewer pipeline projects in Nevada, Washington, Colorado, California as well as projects building oil and gas pipelines, dams and reservoirs.

They will start at Manhattan's western edge 120 feet below the surface and bore to the northeast to an expansion of Penn Station between Sixth and Eighth avenues. The two tunnels will split into four as they approach the station at 34th Street.

Initial construction on the Hudson Tunnel project began in June in North Bergen, N.J., on a railroad underpass that will serve as the entrance to the tunnel in New Jersey. NJ Transit said it expects to receive bids for the New Jersey tunnel segment in the next few weeks, followed by the final Hudson River segment.