WASHINGTON (AP) – New day, new tunnel.
President Joe Biden is poised to unveil a $292 million mega grant to be used to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, part of a broader effort to contrast his economic vision with that of Republicans.
The money is part of $1.2 billion in mega grants awarded under the 2021 infrastructure law. The Democratic president’s trip to New York City comes on the heels of his stop Monday in Baltimore to highlight the replacement of an aging rail tunnel there, where he promised government spending on infrastructure would spur economic growth and create jobs.
“When America sees these projects popping up across the country, it sends a really important message: When we work together, there’s not a damn thing we can’t do,” Biden said Monday. “There is nothing beyond our capabilities.”
These two trips represent a form of counterprogram to the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives. GOP lawmakers are seeking deep spending cuts in exchange for lifting the government’s statutory borrowing limit, saying federal spending hurts growth and the budget needs to be balanced.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Biden are scheduled to meet Wednesday, and the Republican lawmaker intends to push for spending cuts even though White House officials say Biden will not negotiate on the need to raise the federal debt limit.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in America who disagrees that there is some wasteful spending by Washington that we can eliminate,” McCarthy told CBS News on Sunday.
For some in the Biden administration, the Hudson Tunnel project shows what could be lost if spending cuts are introduced. In total, the construction is expected to result in 72,000 jobs, according to the White House.
The project will restore the 1910 tunnel that already carries about 200,000 weekday passengers under the Hudson between New Jersey and Manhattan, a long-delayed upgrade after decades of government underfunding of the infrastructure.
The grant would also be used to help complete the concrete lining for an additional rail tunnel under the river, while preserving the right-of-way for the eventual tunnel. The project is expected to cost a total of $16 billion and help ease a bottleneck for New Jersey and Amtrak passengers passing through New York City.
Other projects to receive mega grants include the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky and Ohio; replacing the bridge on the Calcasieu River in Louisiana; Illinois Commuter Railroad; bridge over the Alligator River in North Carolina; the California Transit and Highway Plan; and roads in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi.
Not everyone is happy with the mega grant program. Some Republican lawmakers in Arizona say she has prioritized mass transit and repair projects over expansion and new construction.