Construction is under way on a concrete tube beneath a massive West Side development, which could someday serve as a vital link to badly-needed rail tunnels in the Hudson River. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
It's possibly the start of something big.
On Monday, officials marked the ceremonial groundbreaking of a project designed to preserve the potential pathway of Hudson River rail tunnels that could someday take trains into Penn Station.
"If we didn't have these boxes there'd be no way, even if we built a nice tunnel under the Hudson, to get them to Penn Station. This was the only way to go," said Senator Charles Schumer.
The 800-foot concrete casing will stretch from 31st Street to 33rd Street, beneath the construction site of what will eventually be the Hudson Yards real estate development.
"There was an actual piece of the property that was necessary here to preserve the optimal alignment so that we can assure that we can meet the needs of the next generation of passenger rail service to New York City," said Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia.
The box tunnel is being built with $185 million in federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds and may eventually serve as a gateway for flood-resistant tunnels that would double Amtrak and commuter rail capacity in the Hudson.
The existing tunnels, which bring 450 trains into Penn Station daily, are already at capacity.
"Let me tell you something. Right now, New York's growth will be strangled because we can't get another train under the Hudson," Schumer said.
It would cost billions to actually build the tunnels.
Just three years ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed a project to build one under the Hudson, saying it would cost too much.
While it's no sure thing that the two Hudson River tunnels will ever come off the drawing board, if they do, they would be the first tunnels built in the river since the early part of the last century.
"While we still have much more to do, today we're able to celebrate progress in an important right direction," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
Workers will have to excavate 83,000 cubic yards of bedrock to build the concrete casing, with the first phase of the project set to be completed in just over two years.