Cross Harbor Freight Program

On May 5, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Congressman Jerrold Nadler announced a major milestone for the Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project: issuance by the Port Authority of a RFP for consultants to conduct the Tier II Environmental Impact Study and complementary advanced planning and engineering work. The Port Authority and the Federal Highway Administration completed a draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement that was published in November 2014, and following public hearings, stakeholder review and comment, a Record of Decision for the Tier 1 was issued by the FHWA in January 2016. The Tier II study will also evaluate an enhancement of the existing railcar float-barge operation.

Photo of a Car Float in front of the Statue of Liberty

Cross Harbor Freight Program: Finding the Best Regional Solutions for Freight-Related Traffic Congestion

There are only a handful of transportation options to cross New York Harbor and the lower Hudson River, and as a consequence, freight traffic currently shares severely congested crossings with cars and mass transit. Freight-related traffic congestion inconveniences everyone involved and imposes environmental and economic costs on the region.

If we don't take action, today's traffic-jams will get worse, and extend for longer and longer periods beyond typical commuting hours. Projected growth in demand for goods—combined with continued dependence on trucks traveling overburdened roads—will create even more congestion, environmental challenges, and safety concerns. It's not just your time at risk—our region's overwhelming dependence on trucking for freight movement increases the costs and environmental impacts of goods movement, while decreasing the reliability and speed of freight delivery and diminishing the safety of our roadways and infrastructure. With expected future growth in freight movement, truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will increase and so will the inefficiencies and adverse effects of our dependence on trucks for freight movement, including higher transportation costs, which would be passed on to consumers as higher prices for goods.

We need to move goods more efficiently. The region needs non-highway alternative freight movement options to increase reliability and resiliency, while reducing costs.

Overall, our region has a well-developed freight rail system, but it is far better developed and better connected to the national rail network west of the Hudson River than it is east of the Hudson River.

Critical rail connections to the east-of-Hudson market are remote, inefficient, or have capacity restrictions. The result? Our region is overwhelmingly dependent on trucks for moving freight across congested chokepoints to and from the east-of-Hudson counties.

A large portion of the region's freight shippers have a limited choice in terms of transportation mode. Consequently, highways leading to and serving the east-of-Hudson counties, and the communities they traverse, experience the greatest proportion of surface freight transport impacts, and freight shippers, receivers, and carriers throughout the region suffer the acute and chronic negative effects of growing highway congestion.

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  • Preferred
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The Project

The primary purpose of the Cross Harbor Freight Program (CHFP) is to improve the movement of the freight across New York Harbor between the east-of-Hudson and west-of-Hudson regions. By improving the movement of goods across the harbor, the project would provide near-term and long-term improvements to the regional freight network, reduce truck traffic congestion, improve air quality, and provide economic benefits. The project's goals, and specific objectives under these goals, are the basis for developing the criteria and methodology for evaluating the project alternatives. We've identified several specific goals for the CHFP:

  • Reducing the contribution of cross-harbor truck trips to congestion along major freight corridors
  • Giving cross-harbor shippers, receivers, and carriers attractive new alternatives such as rail and float ferry to existing interstate trucking services
  • Expanding facilities for goods movement to improve system resiliency, safety, and security, and to protect our infrastructure
  • Supporting development of integrated freight transportation/land use strategies

The project will evaluate how the goals may be accomplished at various levels of capital investment and over various time periods. Short-term and long-term improvements would address these goals to different degrees and at various levels of capital investment.

What has been completed 2010 - 2016

  • Publication of Notice of Intent in the Federal Register
  • Publication of Draft Scoping Document
  • Public Scoping Information Sessions and Public Scoping Comment Period
  • Freight demand modeling and presentation of results to relevant agencies and stakeholders
  • Region-wide environmental analyses
  • Publication of Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement, November 2014
  • Public comment period on Tier 1 DEIS, November 2014 through March 2015
  • Public Hearings, early 2015
  • Ongoing stakeholder engagement
  • Response to comments on Draft Tier 1 EIS and Release of Final Tier 1 EIS, September 2015
  • FHWA releases Record of Decision (ROD) in January 2016

What is happening next …

  • Tier II Analysis

Get Involved

Public Involvement from members of communities throughout the designated study area is vital to this project’s success.

Send questions and comments to:

Matt Masters 
Director, New Port Initiatives 
Port Department Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 


The Study

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), as project sponsor, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as lead agency, are working together on a Cross Harbor Freight Program (CHFP) to improve the movement of goods across New York Harbor and the lower Hudson River.

This evaluation is being conducted through a “tiered” Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), prepared in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  Projects requiring Federal agency approval must comply with NEPA. Major initiatives that have the potential to significantly affect the environment undergo evaluation in an EIS.

Tier I of the EIS effort involves analyzing a range of alternatives at a high level, including the degree to which they advance the goals of the CHFP (see “The Project” tab).  At the conclusion of Tier I, a smaller number of alternatives – designated as Preferred Alternatives – will be recommended for more detailed study and analysis in Tier II. 

Where are we now?

  • The CHFP Tier I EIS is complete.  The Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published in November 2014 for public review and comment.
  • The DEIS evaluated the environmental and socio-economic effects of a total of ten  Build Alternatives (five Waterborne Alternatives and five Rail Tunnel Alternatives) and one “No Action” Alternative (see “Alternatives” tab).
  • The selected Preferred Alternatives, as well as those not recommended for advancement to Tier II, are discussed in the Tier I Final EIS published on September 9, 2015. The FEIS includes the rationale for eliminating or selecting each alternative.

What’s Next?

Fall 2015: Record of Decision (ROD)

The FEIS will be followed in 30 days or more by a Tier I Record of Decision (ROD), issued by FHWA as lead agency, which will serve to close out the NEPA Tier I evaluation. The ROD will identify which alternatives are selected for further study and potential implementation. It is important to note that neither the Tier I FEIS, nor the Tier I ROD, constitutes a final decision to implement any of the alternatives that have been under consideration.

Tier II Analysis

For those alternatives that are advanced to Tier II, this next phase will include further detailed analysis and evaluation, by appropriate environmental, scientific, and technical experts, of potential environmental effects of the alternative(s) under review on local communities, such as traffic, air quality, vibration, and noise.  In addition, Tier II will include consideration of detailed and specific mitigation measures to avoid or minimize any anticipated negative effects.

Preferred Alternatives

After a review of public and agency comments, two alternatives --- the Enhanced Railcar Float Alternative and the Rail Tunnel Alternative (a double track tunnel with vertical clearances to accommodate double stack intermodal service) --- were selected as “Preferred.” The remaining eight Build Alternatives evaluated in the DEIS were not recommended for advancement to Tier II. The two Preferred Alternatives were selected based on a number of criteria, including:

  • Extensive review of public and agency comments
  • Alignment with the project’s goals and objectives
  • Anticipated benefits (including contribution to truck VMT reduction, energy savings, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction, improved air quality, and economic benefits)
  • Potential for adverse impacts and likely feasibility of mitigation measures  

Alternatives Considered                     
The Cross Harbor Freight Program considered a range of alternatives to address the movement of freight across New York Harbor, between the east-of-Hudson and west-of-Hudson regions.

The alternatives fall into these broad categories:

"No Action"

Considering the "No Action" Alternative is a requirement of the Cross Harbor Freight Program environmental review process, which is being conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The No Action Alternative assumes none of the CHFP alternatives will be implemented, and that only those projects already committed and programmed in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey rail lines and yards would be implemented. For example, we assume that under the No Action Alternative certain near-term improvements to the Cross Harbor railcar float operation, both at Greenville and at 65th Street Yard in Brooklyn, would be constructed.

Waterborne Alternatives

These alternatives all entail the movement of freight utilizing a vessel or other water craft between points on the western and eastern sides of New York Harbor.

  • Enhanced Railcar Float
  • Container Barge Alternatives
  • Truck Float
  • Truck Ferry

Rail Tunnel Alternatives

These alternatives all entail the movement of freight utilizing a tunnel from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

  • Double Stack, Double Track Rail Tunnel
  • Rail Tunnel with Shuttle Service Alternative
  • Rail Tunnel with Chunnel Service Alternative
  • Rail Tunnel with Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) Technology Alternative

Technical Documents

We invite you to view documents related to the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Cross Harbor Freight Program Newsletters

A Record of Decision (ROD) was released by FHWA on
January 22, 2016

Click here to view the Federal Register Notice of Availability of
the ROD

Record of Decision

Public Hearings, early 2015

Final Tier 1 EIS
A presentation of the preferred alternatives and a response to comments made on the Draft Tier 1 EIS.

Draft Tier 1 EIS
A presentation of the various alternatives under consideration to meet the goals and objectives of the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Draft Tier 1 EIS Hardcopy Repositories
A list of repositories where Draft Tier 1 EIS hardcopies are available.

Scoping Comment Summary
A summary of the response to comments from the late fall 2010 public comment period.

Public Information Session Presentation (5.2011)
A presentation from a local information session on Long Island about Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Scoping Information Session Presentation (10.2010)
A presentation from the regional scoping information sessions about Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Draft Scoping Document (9.2010)
The Draft Scoping Document has been issued to frame the environmental review to solicit public and agency input regarding the project alternatives and environmental issues currently under consideration in the EIS.

Draft EIS Methodology (9.2010)
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Methodology describes the process and methodology that will be undertaken for the development and evaluation of project alternatives and the preparation of the EIS.

Needs Assessment (9.2010)
To fully understand the existing freight market for the region and forecast its future conditions, a 54-county, multi-state Cross Harbor modeling study area has been established.

Alternatives Workshop: Development and Screening (03.24.10)
A Workshop supplement used during a discussion on the potential alternatives considered for the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Technical Advisory Committee Modeling Workshop (12.17.09)
A Workshop presentation used to discuss modeling development and application, and to obtain Committee feedback.

Cross Harbor Freight EIS Stakeholder Committee (09.30.09)
A presentation to the Stakeholder Committee on stakeholder and public involvement, and an in-depth explanation of the EIS process.

NJTPA Freight Committee Presentation (02.17.09)
An early overview presentation of the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

DEIS prepared by NYCEDC (04.16.04)
2004 Study by NYC EDC. Appendices are not included – please contact the project team to arrange a viewing of the appendices.

All documents are in PDF format. You will need Acrobat Reader to open and view these documents; you can download Acrobat here for free.

Public Input

The Federal Highway Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey value public input as a critical part of the environmental review process. As such, the two agencies conducted a comprehensive public outreach campaign upon publication of the Tier I DEIS, to solicit public input and comment. This campaign included (among other things):

  • seven formal public hearings at various locations in New York City, New Jersey and on Long Island;
  • over 30 briefings for interested parties, including the CHFP Stakeholders Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee, elected officials, community groups, and business and environmental advocates; workshops for federal, state and local agencies with jurisdiction over or having an interest in the CHFP;
  • a project newsletter and project website;
  • publication of meeting notices in Spanish, Chinese and Yiddish newspapers, and translations of informational materials into Spanish, Chinese and Yiddish, to reach populations along the study corridor who may have limited English proficiency or who do not follow the news through traditional mainstream media outlets.

Some comments received expressed concern that certain alternatives might increase the level of local truck or rail traffic in local neighborhoods, resulting in air quality, vibration and noise impacts.  Others sought more information about the type of freight that would be transported.

Other comments received were supportive of the Rail Tunnel Alternative or Waterborne Alternatives, or favored a combination of both waterborne or rail transport as a viable option – specifically the Enhanced Railcar Float Alternative or Waterborne Alternatives as a short-term solution and the Rail Tunnel Alternative as a long-term solution.

All on-the-record comments were carefully evaluated and taken into consideration during the  deliberations about which alternative(s) would be recommended for advancement to Tier II for further study. As part of the FEIS, all comments received are summarized and documented in Chapter 12, Response to Comments, in the FEIS.

Send questions and comments to:

Mark D. Hoffer
Director, New Port Initiatives
Port Commerce Department Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Cross Harbor Freight Program Newsletters

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