Governor Murphy testified at a field roundtable before a Congressional delegation this morning at Port Authority headquarters in an effort to reinforce the importance of the Gateway Program and the need to push its involved projects forward.
The field roundtable kicked off the second day of a two-day Northeast Corridor infrastructure trip that saw members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure tour the 108-year-old North River Tunnel, Northeast Corridor infrastructure, the Penn Station Control Center and Second Avenue Subway.
Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said yesterday that the committee recognizes the sheer importance of Gateway, and understands how important the program is not only to the Northeast region, but to the entire country.
During today’s panel, Murphy described the Gateway Program as a matter of national security and economic stability.
“Twenty percent of our nation’s GDP – I repeat, 20 percent – depends on these tunnels,” Murphy said. “And, allow me to be perfectly clear on another thing – Gateway is going to be built, one way or another. Either the federal government is going to finally come to the table with New Jersey and our partners in New York, and at Amtrak and the Port Authority, to get this done proactively, or there is going to be a catastrophic failure in one of these tunnels that is going to force us to build.”
It’s no secret that the tunnels’ infrastructure is in disarray, including visibly crumbling concrete – whose degradation was expedited by the flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy more than six-and-a-half years ago.
Murphy also highlighted the 109-year-old Portal Bridge and its reputation for getting stuck open, which, when it does, brings the entire Northeast Corridor to a screeching halt.
“There is no other way to put it – the rail infrastructure leading into the largest market in the world is obsolete,” Murphy said. “Upgrading and replacing these components is essential to ensuring the continued flow of traffic on the most congested rail corridor in America – a line that runs from Boston to Union Station in Washington D.C., just blocks from the United States Capitol.”
New Jersey has committed $600 million alone towards Gateway through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and, with its partners in New York State, Amtrak, and the Port Authority, a total of $5.5 billion has been put together in financing for the Hudson Tunnel project.
The frustration lies in what Murphy described as a constant moving of the proverbial “goalposts” in terms of what is being asked of New Jersey in order to get the green light from the Department of Transportation to move forward with the projects.
“Every time you’ve done what you’ve been asked to do – put more skin in the game; do the environmental work faster than what was expected; work seamlessly with New York, the Port Authority and Amtrak to come up with a credible package of broader financing – you are asked to do more, and that’s really frustrating. We don’t know where [the goalposts are]. At this point, I’m not even sure where the stadium is.”
In addition to the stress caused to commuters, Murphy said that every day that the Portal Bridge replacement is delayed costs an estimated $150,000.
“The North River Tunnels and the Portal Bridge both opened to rail traffic in 1910. They have more than outlived their life expectancies,” Murphy said. “We cannot allow these tunnels to fail. We cannot allow the Northeast Corridor to grind to a halt because the balky Portal Bridge got stuck again. We have to act now.”
To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.Related Articles: