Transit advocates, Port Authority and North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority leaders make bipartisan pitch to preserve federal New Starts program
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senate Legislative Oversight Committee Chair Bob Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean today issued a bipartisan plea to New Jersey’s congressional delegation to fight to preserve funding for the federal New Starts program that is vital to the Gateway Rail Tunnel project, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail expansion and other New Jersey projects.
The three senators noted that Governor Christie has pledged to fight for preservation of the New Starts funding in the upcoming federal budget battle.
“Construction of the Gateway rail tunnels will double rail commuter capacity to New York and provide one-seat rides on every NJ Transit rail line,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The elimination of New Starts funding for new projects would push back the planned replacement of the antiquated Portal swing bridge over the Hackensack River that is a vital first stage of the Gateway project. Construction was supposed to begin this year with New Starts funding.”
“The elimination of New Starts funding for new projects would have a devastating effect on the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line into Bergen County that was one of the top priorities in our renewal of the Transportation Trust Fund,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Because of its high projected ridership, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail would have ranked near the top in the competition for New Starts funding. We were hoping to get at least $300 million in federal funding for the project.”
“The Gateway Tunnel is critical to New Jersey commuters and the tri-state economy, and is among the nation’s most important infrastructure projects,” said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean. “The ability to provide one-seat rides to Manhattan on the Raritan Valley Line and every other NJ Transit rail line would spur the revitalization of downtowns all across our state. With unanimous agreement that the Gateway Tunnel is necessary, our congressional delegation should prevent further delays by working for continued funding as a larger national infrastructure program is considered.”
Joining Senators Weinberg and Gordon at the press conference at Newark Penn Station today were Port Authority Commissioner Caren Z. Turner; North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Chairman Peter Palmer, who also serves as a Republican freeholder in Somerset County; Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tristate Transportation Campaign; Mark Lohbauer, New Jersey director for the Regional Plan Association; and Len Resto, the chairman of the Association of Railroad Passengers of New Jersey who serves as a Republican councilman in Chatham Borough.