"I know the bottleneck we're talking about because I've sat on the train from New Jersey, waiting to get into the tunnel into New York," said Susan M. Zellman, chairwoman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Organization.
The preliminary designs released Friday are for an underpass near the tunnel mouth in northern New Jersey and for about 4 miles of tunneling in Manhattan. They represent two of the project's 24 segments.
Companies interested in the contracts would submit descriptions of their qualifications to NJ Transit and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Those passing muster will be allowed to bid on each segment.
The winning bidders will have to do the final design and construction, said Art Silber, NJ Transit's tunnel project chief.
Winning bidders are to be picked - and construction to begin - in the spring. Once under way, the new tunnel will be the largest transit project in the U.S., according to the Federal Transit Administration.
The entire project is expected to generate 6,000 construction-related jobs. The final product will increase the maximum number of trains moving under the Hudson River from 23 trains an hour to 48, said Stephen Dilts, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The new two-track tunnel will supplement an existing two-track tunnel, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad a century ago.
"We've outgrown the (rail) tunnel we have in place," Dilts said.
Transportation officials predict the new tunnel will remove 22,000 cars a day from area roads as commuters opt for the new trains. Fewer cars means less tailpipe emissions, according to the Port Authority, which operates five airports in the region, four bridges linking New York and New Jersey and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.
"The tunnel will provide jobs and offer environmental benefits for decades to come," said Stephen Sigmund, chief of public and government affairs at the Port Authority.
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS