Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey’s highest-ranking elected Democrat and a potential candidate for governor in 2017, called for the replacement of a rail tunnel to New York City.

The existing tubes, more than 100 years old, run at capacity, causing tie-ups at peak commuter times for New Jersey Transit, which shares the tracks with the national passenger rail system. Repairs as a result of Hurricane Sandy will cause further delays, Amtrak said in a statement last month.

“The entire Northeast Corridor Rail Line and all the rail lines in northern New Jersey skinny down to a single track in and a single track out under the Hudson River,” Sweeney, 55, the Senate president said in a statement. “These tracks handle 45 million passenger trips a year so problems can create the ultimate bottleneck for regional transportation.”

Republican Governor Chris Christie, 52, in 2010 canceled the $12.4 billion Access to the Region’s Core tunnel, which would have more than doubled peak-time trains. The project’s potential cost overruns would burden residents of the U.S. state with the highest property taxes, Christie said.

Sweeney, of West Deptford, has said he is considering a run for governor. He has visited deteriorating bridges throughout New Jersey to draw attention to the need to replenish the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which will run dry next year as all of the gasoline tax that funds it goes toward debt service.

Christie, at an appearance today at a soup kitchen in Newark, said he hadn’t seen Sweeney’s statement on the tunnel and declined to comment.

–With assistance from Terrence Dopp in Trenton.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net. 

Photo Credit: Amtrak's high speed Acela at Washington's Union Station. By the time it gets near New York Penn Station, it is no longer high-speed. Larry Downing / Reuters