Congressman says federal OK for Portal Bridge could happen soon
SECAUCUS – Gov. Phil Murphy and a group of federal and state officials on Wednesday convened a second annual Labor Day season news conference at which they implored the Trump administration to green-light the Portal Bridge replacement project.
There are signs that this time is different, they say. The state has committed $600 million to the $1.6 billion project. The House has appropriated funding for the project, though the bill isn’t yet law. New Jersey and New York have set up a Gateway Development Commission to oversee the funds.
And messages from the Trump administration have changed in the past month, said U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. 7th District, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“I don’t count my bridges before they’re built, but I am increasingly confident that the Portal North project is going to happen soon,” Malinowski said. “I spoke to the head of the FTA just last week, and I heard for the very first time no more excuses. They acknowledge that we have taken every single step that we need to take to get this thing off the ground.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” he said, “because anything could happen, as you suggested, with this administration. But there’s no argument that they have made thus far that could possibly justify denying this grant application.”
Malinowski was one of six members of Congress to join Murphy at the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Rail Station, along with state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
“This is very, very important for New Jersey and for the region. And I just want to move forward with it and hope that they take the politics out of it,” said U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J. 8th District. “There’s a lot of politics here, unfortunately. But I hope it doesn’t take an emergency for people in Washington to come to their senses and move forward on this project.”
On average, the swing-span bridge doesn’t close properly one out of every seven times it is opened for maritime traffic and needs to be secured back in place by a worker with a sledgehammer. That can delay not only NJ Transit trains but also Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor.
“New Jersey is ready to get started on America’s next great infrastructure project,” Murphy said. “But we can’t do that until the Trump administration stops its delays, removes its artificial roadblocks and lets us get to work on finally replacing the Portal Bridge.”
Jerry Zaro, the chairman and New Jersey trustee of the Gateway Program Development Corp., said a revised submission on the Portal North project in about a month.
Zaro said around a dozen preparatory projects are underway already, using funds earlier appropriated by Congress.