In 1893, a vision for a cross harbor freight tunnel began. By the 1920s it became an early goal of the Port Authority but was abandoned in 1941. Under Mayor Giuliani, the tunnel plan gained new momentum in 1998, when he asked the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to study the project.
Proponents of the plan say that growth in goods movement over the past 50 years and the continued growth of demand for goods in the region require greater capacity for freight transportation across the harbor between New York City and New Jersey. According to the Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project, an organization formed in 2001 to plan and promote the tunnel project, the demand for goods in the New York metropolitan area is projected to grow about 70% by 2025.
They argue that while New York has invested heavily in transportation infrastructure for moving people from region to region, the development of freight connections from the City to the concentration of air, rail, and port freight facilities in the “West-of-Hudson region” have been ignored. The result is that the freight transport system in New York City relies predominantly on truck transport over a limited number of river crossings, causing congestion, delays, and disruptions in shipping services, and additional costs for shippers and buyers.
The EDC completed and released their study of the project in 2000, generally concluding that the rail tunnel would be financially feasible and would result in a reduction of air pollution, traffic congestion, accidents, and costs to shippers.
The preferred alignment of the tunnel, according to the Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project, would be from Greenville Yards in Jersey City, NJ, to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. A portion of railways would need to be built along the border between Bay Ridge and Sunset Park before the tunnel could connect to existing infrastructure for wider dispersal.
The cross harbor freight tunnel has received mixed support since Mayor Giuliani left office in 2001. Critics continue to question whether this dated plan will appropriately serve the modern needs of the region. Residents in Brooklyn and Queens have opposed the idea of designating land in their boroughs for rail terminals due to the noise and vibrations caused by rail traffic.
In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his opposition to the project, citing negative neighborhood impacts. During his gubernatorial campaign in 2006, then-candidate for Governor Elliot Spitzer released a transportation agenda that omitted the tunnel project as a priority but urged further study of its costs and benefits. In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg reconsidered his opposition to the project and agreed to meet with Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn 8th District), one of the project’s biggest supporters.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey revived the project in October 2007 by agreeing to conduct a feasibility study funded by $100 million in federal dollars allocated in the federal Transportation Equity Act of 2005.