By Katie Reilly
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York on Tuesday put forward a plan to pay for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River linking New Jersey and New York City, following lengthy delays that have left commuters stranded and frustrated in recent weeks.
Schumer proposed creation of a non-profit development corporation that would help raise money to pay for the multibillion-dollar project and also pushed to expedite repairs to the existing tunnel, which dates to the early 1900s.
"We are fast approaching a regional transportation Armageddon: the busiest rail line in the country stranded without a way into New York," Schumer said at a press conference on Tuesday.
"But the problem goes beyond New York and New Jersey. It is a federal problem. If the tunnels aren’t built, it will affect our economy from Maine to Virginia," he said.
Electrical problems in the existing tunnel caused delays that doubled, tripled or even quadrupled the work commute of tens of thousands of people in recent weeks.
In testimony to New Jersey lawmakers on Monday, Stephen Gardner, Amtrak's vice president for the Northeast corridor, which runs from Washington through New York to Boston, said train delays will likely increase until a new tunnel is built and the existing one is renovated.
Schumer, who estimated the project would cost $25 billion in total, said the renovation is essential and will require collaboration for both their planning and funding.
The senator, a Democrat, criticized New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, for canceling a similar transportation plan, named Access to the Region's Core (ARC), in 2010 because of a lack of funding.
"It’s easy for Senator Schumer to make these claims when New York wasn’t contributing a dime to the ARC project and didn’t step up to take on any of the cost of the project’s overruns," Nicole Sizemore, Christie's spokeswoman, said in a statement.
She said Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo want to see increased federal funding for the new project.
In July, Christie blamed Amtrak, the national rail operator, for the train delays and called on the Obama administration and Congress to do more to fix the problems. He said New Jersey pays Amtrak $100 million annually so that NJ Transit trains can use Amtrak tunnels and rails.
(Reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky)