NEW YORK (WABC) --It's slated to cost billions and take years, but now there is a move to fast track the Gateway Tunnel project.
The massive undertaking will improve railroad connections between New Jersey and New York, and federal officials say speeding up the timeline will save money.
This acceleration of the Gateway Tunnel project comes as encouraging news on several fronts and those working on the project hope to fast track it even more.
"This is the most important federal transportation project," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
That Gateway Tunnel project, as it's envisioned, would feed into an expanded Penn Station, with the rail line running parallel to the existing Amtrak line.
Replacing the portal bridge is in the plans, and a right of way is already secured under the Hudson Yards.
A massive project eligible for additional funding and gaining further support from federal officials.
"There is no project in America that is as much a referendum on our present day capacity to do what's right for the American people in our nation than the Gateway project," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
The existing Amtrak tunnels between New York and New Jersey are already over 100 years old.
And traveling through them, Amtrak officials have shown that age has taken its toll. Constantly in need of maintenance, the tunnels also suffered significant damage from Sandy.
"Sandy accelerated their deterioration," said Sen. Schumer. "What will we do? Do ferries across the Hudson for the 300,000 people who come across?"
Amtrak has already secured the right of way for the proposed new track lines, and constructing a concrete casing that runs under the Hudson Yards project.
They now focus on other engineering and environmental review aspects of the project.
"We are doing it. We turned the hour glass over. We are building this project, there is no turning back," said Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia.
The plan for a new portal bridge along the line is also now eligible, the lawmakers say, for federal grant funding.
The project too is expected to provide relief to New Jersey Transit, which shares the tunnels with Amtrak.
Those riders have been delayed and impacted by the shutdown of the tunnels for emergency repairs.
"This is about everybody in the region who wants to get to work and wants to get home safely to their families," said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
Moving ahead with what these officials believe is record speed, Sen. Schumer believes major work could begin right after the environmental impact is studied.
"It's going to be expedited. So we expect that to be finished by early 2019 and construction to commence then," said Schumer.