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Andrew Cuomo urges Donald Trump to fund Gateway Tunnel project

November 28, 2018

President Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, two guys from Queens who have clashed loudly in their current jobs, met at the White House on Wednesday to discuss a costly New York train tunnel project that has stalled under the president’s opposition.

Mr. Trump hosted the governor for lunch with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as Mr. Cuomo sought to persuade the president to move ahead with federal funding for the $13 billion Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River.

A White House statement on the meeting didn’t indicate that Mr. Trump budged from his position that a 50 percent federal share for the project is too expensive.

“The president cares deeply for his home state of New York and always appreciates the opportunity to engage with the governor on issues important to the state and region,” the White House said.

The president sounded a note of caution later in an interview with The New York Post, calling the tunnel rebuilding “probably the world’s most expensive project.”

“We’re looking at it now,” Mr. Trump said. “It is a very old tunnel.”

Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that part of the resistance to the project is the uncertain total cost.

“We are talking very large numbers here,” the governor said. “The meeting was a positive meeting. The president was receptive to what we were talking about. The president got it,” adding that Mr. Trump wants to find “the next steps forward.”

“This situation is bigger than politics,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You’re talking about safety, you’re talking about vital economic need. The tunnel could collapse.”

He said Mr. Trump’s concerns were “how do we do it so it doesn’t become a government boondoggle?”

“Those are legitimate concerns,” the governor said. “We’ve seen too many botched government construction jobs.”

Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Trump have engaged often this year, frequently bristling with hostility for each other. During the president’s visit in August to an Army base in upstate New York, Mr. Cuomo took a swipe at Mr. Trump that backfired spectacularly.

“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great,” Mr. Cuomo told an audience, referring to the president’s campaign slogan.

The president responded that Mr. Cuomo had just blown, in one simple sentence, any hope of running for president in 2020.

“How does a politician, Cuomo, known for pushing people and businesses out of his state, not to mention having the highest taxes in the U.S., survive making the statement, WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, IT WAS NEVER THAT GREAT? Which section of the sentence is worse?” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Cuomo announced this week that he won’t run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Mr. Cuomo’s Twitter page has a tweet pinned at the top, aimed at Mr. Trump: “America is great because it rejects your hate-filled agenda of bigotry sexism.”

The president shrugged off their clashes Wednesday, saying “it’s politics.”

“I have a good relationship with him. I like him. He likes me,” Mr. Trump told the Post.

The governor is intent on getting money for the Gateway Tunnel, for which President Obama’s administration agreed to pay half the cost. Mr. Trump rescinded his predecessor’s promise.

To convince the president of the urgency, Mr. Cuomo sent Mr. Trump a videotape of the crumbling, corroding current tunnel, which carries 820,000 daily commuters and East Coast passengers between Washington and Boston. The tunnel is owned by Amtrak and provides the only access to New York City for New Jersey Transit commuter trains.

“It’s not even a New York project. This is a federally owned tunnel,” Mr. Cuomo said this week on a radio show. “This is a critical Northeast need. We need the president’s administration to move forward.”

Mr. Cuomo said the tunnel is “not a partisan issue but a practical government necessity.”

“These tunnels are federally owned by the Amtrak Corporation and must be replaced,” he said. “If only one of the two 100-year-old tunnels becomes unusable it would pose a serious economic hardship for New York City and the entire Northeast corridor.”

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