The agency responsible for key rail infrastructure projects between Newark, N.J., and New York City's Penn Station plans to seek a private partner for the planned $16.1-billion Hudson River tunnel replacement project. The Gateway Development Commission plans to issue an RFQ this month for a project delivery partner on the megaproject, CEO Kris Kolluri said at a Dec. 12 public meeting. 

The partner is needed to ensure the commission has the technical, management, financial and organizational capacities to receive federal funding and to deliver the project efficiently, as well as to make sure its execution team looks “at innovative and flexible project delivery mechanisms,” Kolluri said.

“Obviously the technical experience that the private sector brings to a project of this magnitude is important,” he said.

The commission would use RFQ responses to generate a shortlist of qualified partner organizations, with a contract set for award sometime in 2023. 

The delivery partner model is relatively new to the U.S. but has been used on large works overseas, such as building infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to the commission. 

Under this form of project delivery, the private partner is “embedded” with the owner, streamlining the flow of information between key team members and allowing a shared focus on meeting milestones. Tony Coscia, commissiob vice chair and Amtrak chairman, said in a statement that the approach would preserve flexibility, while allowing for the private partner to introduce innovative thinking to the project.

“With partnerships that bring cost and schedule discipline, we’re putting [the commission] in the best possible position to deliver on our commitments,” Coscia said. 

The Hudson tunnel project entails constructing a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan, as well rehabilitating the existing North River rail tunnels, which first entered service in 1910. The commission anticipates starting major construction in fall 2024, completing the new tunnel in 2035 and finishing the existing tunnel rehab in 2038. 

The commission, jointly formed by New Jersey and New York, formally took responsibility for the Hudson tunnel project earlier this year. It is also responsible for the $1.7-billion Portal North Bridge replacement in New Jersey’s Meadowlands and a slate of smaller rail infrastructure projects planned in the area.

Commissioners also voted during the Dec. 12 meeting to delegate administrative policy duties to Kolluri, and they approved a $58.2-million 2023 budget that includes $34.4 million for planning, engineering and project systems and development.