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Trump adviser denies he cheered end of tunnel funding deal

NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent New York City developer who has advised the Trump administration on infrastructure denied Tuesday that he cheered the president’s decision not to pay half of the $13 billion price tag for a new commuter rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey.

Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth said in a conference call with investors that the media had “incorrectly reported” on an email he sent last year in which he appears to support an administration decision to pull the 50 percent federal funding for the Gateway project. He said he expects the tunnel will be built with “substantial federal participation.”

“I believe that Gateway is far and away the most important infrastructure project in our region and one of the most critical for our nation,” Roth said. “I am also confident that the federal government and both states’ political leaders will develop an equitable cost-sharing agreement that gets the project built.”

The reports in Politico and Crain’s based on Roth email to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao led to speculation he was positioning his company to benefit from the use of more private-public partnerships, as outlined in President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. Roth helped lead Trump’s infrastructure advisory council before it was disbanded in August.

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The email controversy began Aug. 11 with an article in the conservative Weekly Standard that suggested the Trump administration was now balking at an Obama-era proposal for the federal government to provide half the funds for Gateway, and that the deal was all but dead.

Roth, noting the article, wrote Chao: “You are doing great … stick to your guns.” The email was obtained by the legal watchdog group Democracy Forward through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Vornado has much to gain from a new tunnel. It would empty near some…

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