Fighting to retain federal funds for mass transit
A Garden State lawmaker is looking to put the brakes on changes to a federal transportation bill that he says could cost NJ Transit $50 million a year.
Congress is considering a last minute change to the federal transportation funding bill. The amendment calls for diverting $1.6 billion in mass transit funding in high density northeast parts of the country to rural states for a bus expansion project. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is vowing to do everything possible to stop the proposal from moving forward, noting the switch would cost New Jersey Transit $50 million a year.
“These are funds that go for track repair, station improvements and building new rail cars and buses,” Menendez said during a press conference Monday at Penn Station in Newark. “If this amendment becomes law, it would derail the prospects of bold infrastructure projects we so desperately need to maintain and improve our quality of life, create jobs and grow our economy.”
Menendez says bus service is incredibly important, but the program has already received a large funding increase.
“It’s amazing to me some members of the House of Representatives are stuck in a 1950s mindset. They want the car to be your first, second and only choice when it comes to getting around, it’s not going to work for New Jersey where we already have the nation’s most congested roads. It’s an antiquated mindset that fails to understand the modern economy, in which diverse transportation options are essential for attracting workers and improving efficiency.”
He said under-funding mass transit “would be a self-inflicted wound upon our economy which our state and region may never recover, putting our vitality at stake.”
Menendez points out building the Gateway rail tunnel, from Jersey into New York is one of the region’s biggest and most important projects, but in order to move forward with it we need a transportation bill that increases transit and rail funding.
The lawmaker said the amendment would also be harmful because “we’re talking about falling further behind our basic repairs and maintenance, we’re talking about delays like the type saw this past summer becoming the new normal, that’s unacceptable for our transit riders.”