Will the Gateway Tunnel Finally Become Reality?

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at the planned railroad tunnel connecting Midtown Manhattan to New Jersey that’s getting $292 million from the federal infrastructure package. We’ll also meet dog walkers who are earning big money.

Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Surrounded by commuter trains in a railyard on the edge of Manhattan, President Biden formally announced a $292 million commitment for the first stages of the railroad tunnel project known as Gateway. He said it was “the beginning of finally constructing a 21st-century rail system.”

Gateway has been talked about for years. I asked Patrick McGeehan, who covers transportation for the Metro desk, to explain where the project stands and why it’s important.

What’s your assessment? What does this injection of money from the $1 trillion infrastructure package mean?

There’s still the big question of will this ever happen. President Biden says it will, and Senator Schumer says it will, but we have been down this road before. The last attempt to build a tunnel under the Hudson ended when Chris Christie pulled the plug on it, and that project was further along than this one is. It had already lined up its federal funding, and the crews had actually started digging.

They haven’t started digging this one?

No. What was announced on Tuesday was funding for a section of the tunnel — the section under the streets of Manhattan, where the tunnel from under the river would go on its way to Penn Station. The actual tunnel under the river, they have not begun to dig yet. The estimate is that it would cost more than $16 billion, and New York and New Jersey expect the federal government to pay half of that. But the federal government has not yet committed to paying that half. Senator Schumer has said there is enough money in the infrastructure bill to pay for the whole project, but it has not yet been earmarked specifically for the Gateway project.

So what would happen with an administration that’s less committed than the Biden administration?

During the Trump administration, President Trump stopped this project in its tracks. His administration downgraded the importance of the whole project. There’s a process. It had been given highest importance in the Obama administration and was downgraded by the Trump administration. That could happen again under a different administration. Joe Biden is as supportive as he could be, but there’s no telling what a different president would think of it with a different Congress.

Doesn’t New York desperately need the new tunnel?

Yes. Every elected official from the Northeast says this is critical to maintaining rail service in the Northeast Corridor.

The main argument for the urgency is that the existing tunnel, which is 113 years old, was flooded with saltwater in Hurricane Sandy and has been deteriorating from the inside out. Without a replacement for that tunnel, they can’t close the existing tunnel to rehabilitate it.

They’ve been repairing the existing tunnel piecemeal. They can’t shut it for any length of time because there’s only one track in and one track out of New York City. So without the two tracks we have now, rail travel in and out of the city would be drastically reduced, making it impossible for tens of thousands of people to commute into the city every day.

The elected officials fear that would harm the economy, not just here but in the rest of the country.

Is there anything special about the design of the new tunnel?

Not really. But it will be a significant upgrade from the existing one, which opened for use in 1910, when William Howard Taft was president. One of the problems with the existing tunnel is that all the electrical cables are down near the tracks. They’re not attached to the walls or suspended from the ceiling. That’s why they were damaged when water poured in during the hurricane.

They are so leaky that, on very cold days, crews have go to through them, whacking icicles off the ceiling with long sticks. The planners say that shouldn’t be necessary in the new tunnel.


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See Spot. See Spot’s dog walker, who makes $100,000 a year.

Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times

Bethany Lane says she made at least $100,000 last year.

Her job was not among those in this guess-how-much-they-make quiz. Nor was she one of these 27 people who bared all, at least as far as their salaries went.

She is a dog walker.

This is a good time to be one. The rise in pet ownership during the pandemic, which contributed to the boom in pet care, has turned dog walking and dog training into more of a business venture than it used to be.

And it pays. Lane has raised her rates, quoting one customer $35 a walk, but can’t keep up with demand. Michael Josephs quit his job as a special-education teacher in Brooklyn to start a dog-training business, charging $20 an hour for a 30-minute group walk. He now offers puppy training ($60 for one hour), pet sitting ($65 a day) and 15-minute puppy check-ins ($12). He said he generated more than $100,000 in income last year.

Some dog walkers have done so well that they can afford to go back to what they really set out to do in life. Maren Lavelle, 28, was an aspiring filmmaker before she and a college friend took over a dog walking business six years ago. She now feels so secure financially that she has set up a production company that makes narrative films. She is also making a short horror film set in upstate New York.

Lavelle put in long hours at first, walking 15 to 25 dogs each day and making $15 per walk. But the company now has about 700 clients and 25 dog walkers in New York City, along with an additional 13 walkers in Chicago, where they opened a second operation. To cater to the puppy boom, the company also offers socialization training. “A lot of the pandemic puppies didn’t get even the baseline of socialization,” Ms. Lavelle said. “They are fearful or react to every sound or movement because it’s super-novel to them.”

Our reporter Alyson Krueger writes that Lane turned to dog walking 11 years ago after graduating from Rutgers University and moving to New York City. She was looking to start a career in public health. But with rent and student loans to cover, she needed something more. Nosing around on Craigslist, she realized that people would pay her to walk their dogs. For an animal lover, “it was perfect.”

Before long, she was putting in 12-hour days. But she paid off the student loans and hired her dog walkers. And she bought a weekend house in Tuckerton, N.J.

“If I would have told my younger self I can make a living caring for dogs,” she said, “I never would have believed it.”


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Melissa Guerrero, Emmett Lindner and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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