President Trump is pushing congressional Republicans not to fund a crucial infrastructure project — a long-delayed plan to build a new rail tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey — setting up a confrontation that could complicate passage of a massive government spending bill this month.
Trump personally appealed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) this week to target federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, which would construct a tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to supplement two aging tubes that are at risk of failing in the coming years.
The project is widely considered to be among the most pressing and most expensive infrastructure needs in the country, and state and local leaders have long sought federal funding to jump-start work on it. But the Trump administration threw the project into doubt late last year by casting aside an agreement reached during the Obama administration that would have the federal government pick up half the project’s cost.
And now, according to four officials familiar with the discussions, Trump has taken a personal interest in making sure no federal dollars flow to a project that is considered critical to his hometown’s long-term economic prosperity.
Trump delivered his message to Ryan on Wednesday during a meeting at the Capitol, three people familiar with the conversation said. Trump was on the Hill for a ceremony for the late Rev. Billy Graham, who lay in honor in the Rotunda. Ryan seemed surprised that Trump brought up the project in their conversation, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
A spokesman for Ryan declined to comment. A White House representative did not respond to a request for comment.
The motivations behind Trump’s opposition are not entirely clear. It is a direct challenge to a key political rival, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been among the most powerful and vocal backers of federal funding for the project. Until recently, Schumer had held up several Trump nominees, including his pick to head the Federal Railroad Administration, to protest the administration’s failure to support the project.
But the Gateway project also has had powerful Republican backers, including former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who represents thousands of suburban constituents who rely on the Hudson River rail tunnels for their daily commutes to and from Manhattan.
Let’s be clear that Christie deserves zero credit here, as his own Trumpian killing of a transit tunnel out of pure spite is the reason we’re in this mess in the first place. Republican governance is a disaster. But, anyway, time for another thinkpiece about the implications of electing a populist Republican who really supports infrastructure and all the deals a Democratic Congress can cut with him!