Secaucus– Senate President Steve Sweeney and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg today urged the federal government to provide funding for the Portal Bridge, noting that it is not only an integral part of the Gateway Tunnel project, but also critical to improve New Jersey Transit’s on-time service performance.
“The Portal Bridge is the biggest single bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor and the single worst cause of delays on NJ Transit,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland. “Replacement of this 108-year-old swing bridge is long overdue and should be a top priority in the upcoming FY20 federal budget. This project is shovel-ready and there should be no further delay.”
“The State of New Jersey has already pledged $600 million in Economic Development Authority bonding for the Portal Bridge reconstruction,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “There is no more suitable use for bonding than for the construction of bridges and tunnels designed to last for the next 75 to 100 years. Every year that the federal government fails to approve funding adds to the cost of the project.”
The Senate leaders noted that the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill sponsored by Senator Weinberg and signed by the Governor last month to create a new Gateway Development Commission to oversee construction of the full Gateway project. The first phase includes construction of a new two-track Gateway rail tunnel, rehabilitation of the existing North River tunnels and the reconstruction of Portal Bridge North. The second phase includes the construction of New York Penn Station South, a new Portal Bridge South and two additional tracks between Newark and Secaucus to double NJ Transit rail capacity to Manhattan.
While the Portal Bridge funding plan to be filed with the federal Department of Transportation next month is expected to have New Jersey cover the full local share of the project, the Weinberg bill calls for New York and New Jersey to ultimately split the overall local share of the Portal Bridge and the rail tunnels on a 50-50 basis.
“Getting that 50-50 split written into law for the first time was a non-negotiable point in the Gateway legislation, as were safeguards to ensure that the new project would be funded through bonding, not through tolls imposed on NJ Transit trains or riders,” said Senator Weinberg.
The $11.3 billion Gateway Tunnel plan submitted to the federal government last Friday did not rely on tolls on NJ Transit trains to pay for construction costs, as previous plans had done.
“Construction of the full Gateway project, starting with the Portal Bridge, is vital to the continued growth of our regional economy, to our housing values and to the quality of life of all of our commuters, whose lives would be upended if the existing Sandy-damaged tunnels are forced to close before the new tunnels can be built,” Senator Sweeney concluded.