Their rallying cry: Mr. President, help us build the Gateway Tunnel
Gov. Phil Murphy and several members of New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation held a Gateway Tunnel pep rally on Tuesday, urging President Donald Trump to support efforts to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Murphy, standing under an elevated section of part of the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus, was surrounded by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Reps. Bill Pascrell, Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr. along with several transportation, business and labor leaders from across New Jersey
He said New Jersey is ready to get to work on America’s next great infrastructure project.
“We are ready for the Trump administration to step up to the plate with us, we are ready to do Gateway together," Murphy saiid.
President Trump has recently opposed federal funding for the project, which could expand the Northeast Corridor rail line into New York City, building new rail bridges as well as tunnels under the Hudson River. But Congress recently allocated $541 million for the tunnel project to move forward in its initial phases.
Privately, some have suggested Trump is withholding support for Gateway to try and convince New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to support the oresident’s proposed Mexican border wall plan.
Murphy stressed the Gateway Tunnel wouldn't just affect New Jersey and New York: “There is perhaps no project in which the economic future of our entire country and our national security are so inexorably intertwined.”
"This is not about politics" he said. "It’s not about party. It’s always been about doing what’s right for our region and our country.”
Murphy said another crucial transportation project that must be completed is the Portal North Bridge replacement.
He said more than 200,000 passengers on the Northeast Corridor line and Amtrak cross the Portal Bridge in Secaucus every day heading into New York’s Penn Station, and the span, constructed in 1910, causes frequent delays because part of the track gets stuck out of place and must be realigned manually before train traffic can resume.
“We have committed our share of funding, $600 million from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority,” he said.
Menendez agreed the Gateway Tunnel is essential.
“The question of whether we invest in our infrastructure isn’t abstract," he said. "It translates into real benefits and real consequences for the people of New Jersey.”
He added "it’s the question of whether you can get to work on time or whether you even have access to a given job opportunity."
Menendez said without a functioning transportation infrastructure, businesses are not able to bring their goods to market, and can’t even stay in New Jersey.
He said the current rail tunnel being used under the Hudson River needs significant rehab work, and a new tunnel is vitally important.
He also said a shutdown of the Northeast Corridor, “which may very well be a reality without Gateway, would cost $100 million per day."
"It would be a disaster for our workers, our economy and our air quality," Menendez said.
Menendez said the president is “ignoring the national economic benefits this project will generate. He’s ignoring the workers who would see good family wage jobs building the tunnel and he’s ignoring the promises he made to the American people about investing in our infrastructure.”
And he said “it should be clear to the President by now that the Gateway project will be built with or without his support, so it’s time to stop playing games.”
Pascrell said building the Gateway Tunnel is essential because the existing tunnel and Portal Bridge are old and decaying.
“They’re not safe, Many of our bridges are not safe," he said.
Payne said the current rail tracks leading into New York need more work than you can imagine.
“Don’t go in those tunnels when they’re lit. Be glad you go through them and they’re dark, because if you saw em lit you might not go back in them," he said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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