The $12.7 billion Gateway project, which centres on building a new railroad tunnel between New Jersey and New York City, has been a political bone of contention for years.

But officials at Amtrak, the US national passenger railroad corporation, said the project must go forward if rail service to the city is to continue.

Bloomberg reports that Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson told reporters that there’s “an inevitability” that the Gateway tunnel will be built.

“The reality is Amtrak owns this tunnel, and it is a vital national asset that has to be maintained well and has to be reconstructed,” he said.

The tunnel would replace an older tube that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That tunnel is the only direct rail link between New Jersey and Manhattan.

Anderson said that Amtrak would have to begin scaling back service on its popular Northeast Corridor trains within the next few years if the tunnel and bridge reconstruction envisioned in the Gateway project aren’t completed.

State, local and federal officials have come to some agreement about the scope of the project, but continue to haggle over how much money each level of government should be contributing toward its completion.