NEW YORK — New day, new tunnel.
President Joe Biden is ready to showcase a $292 million mega grant that will be used to help build a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, part of a broader effort to draw a contrast between his economic vision and that of Republicans.
The money is part of $1.2 billion in mega grants being awarded under the 2021 infrastructure law. The Democratic president’s trip to New York City on Tuesday comes on the heels of his stop Monday in Baltimore to highlight the replacement of an aging rail tunnel there, where he pledged that government spending on infrastructure will boost economic growth and create blue-collar jobs.
“When America sees these projects popping up across the country, it sends a really important message: When we work together, there’s not a damn thing we can’t do,” Biden said Monday. “There’s nothing beyond our capacity.”
The two trips amount to a form of counterprogramming to the new House Republican majority. GOP lawmakers are seeking deep spending cuts in exchange for lifting the government’s legal borrowing limit, saying that federal expenditures are hurting growth and that the budget should be balanced.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Biden are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, with the Republican lawmaker intending to press his case for spending cuts even though White House officials say Biden won’t negotiate over the need to increase the federal debt limit.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in America who doesn’t agree that there’s some wasteful Washington spending that we can eliminate,” McCarthy told CBS News on Sunday.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House senior adviser responsible for coordinating implementation of the infrastructure law, told reporters on Tuesday that if Republicans are looking to “take away money from projects, they ought to, I think, identify which projects they don’t want.”
“And then you can have that discussion with the American people,” Landrieu added.
To some in the Biden administration, the Hudson Tunnel Project demonstrates what could be lost if spending cuts are put into place. In total, the construction is projected to result in 72,000 jobs, according to the White House.
The project will renovate the 1910 tunnel already carrying about 200,000 weekday passengers beneath the Hudson between New Jersey and Manhattan, a long-delayed upgrade after decades in which the government underfunded infrastructure.
The grant would also be used to help complete the concrete casing for an additional rail tunnel beneath the river, preserving a right of way for the eventual tunnel. In total, the project is expected to cost $16 billion and help ease a bottleneck for New Jersey commuters and Amtrak passengers going through New York City.
Other projects to receive mega grants include the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky and Ohio; the Calcasieu River Bridge replacement in Louisiana; a commuter rail in Illinois; the Alligator River Bridge in North Carolina; a transit and highway plan in California; and roadways in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
Not everyone has been pleased by the mega grant program. Some Republican lawmakers in Arizona say it gave preference to mass transit and repair projects over expansion and new construction.