President Donald Trump today signed the $1.3 trillion appropriations bill funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year and avoiding a midnight shutdown.

Significantly, the final bill included funding that could be used to begin the Gateway Tunnel, a major transportation infrastructure project critical to New Jersey’s economy. The project would create new tunnel rail lines under the Hudson River to connect New Jersey and New York City.

NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said the business community was relieved that funding was made available for the project, but said the state would have to be vigilant to make sure the project goes forward.

“NJBIA thanks New Jersey’s Congressional delegation for its strong advocacy on federal funding for the Gateway project,” Siekerka said. “With the federal spending bill now signed, this national infrastructure project, which is so essential to both the regional and national economy, could receive approximately $540 million that would help get construction started on the infrastructure project.

“As stated in an op-ed by NJBIA and other New Jersey business groups and labor unions on Monday, the start and completion of the Gateway project is paramount for our competitiveness, economic development, job creation and quality of life. NJBIA will continue to be vigilant for the allocation of this funding toward the project and offer continued support for federal funding to see the project through.”

The existing rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York Penn Station represents the busiest rail hub in the Western Hemisphere, with commuters taking more than 4.3 billion unlinked trips in Newark and New York City in 2015. Those tunnels, however, have a life expectancy of only about 10 more years.

This project would create a new tunnel under the Hudson River and allow the existing tubes to be closed one at a time for repairs. Additionally, it calls for the reconstruction of the 111-year-old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.