Activists, residents largely oppose $4.7B Turnpike extension widening in Jersey City & Bayonne


Activists and residents came out largely in opposition to a $4.7 billion New Jersey Turnpike extension widening that would impact Bayonne and Jersey City at today’s board of commissioners meeting.

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By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The citizens of Jersey City and the state deserve to know if the expansion project is going ahead … We deserve honest answers and we’d appreciate answers to those questions today,” said attorney John Richman, who is representing Empower NJ, one of 135 environmental groups who are circulation a petition to halt the project.

The three-stage proposal would widen the extension to four lanes in both directions – replacing exit 14 in Newark and 14A in Bayonne.

The next phase would widen 14A to Columbus Drive in Jersey City to three lanes, while the final phase would replace elevated structures from Columbus Drive to Jersey Avenue.

The meeting, which was held in person at their headquarters in Woodbridge and also allowed public comment via phone, started at 9 a.m., though didn’t really get moving until about 9:40 a.m. due to an executive session.

While the expansion wasn’t on the agenda, very few of the two dozen other speakers addressed any other topic.

Brian Scanlon, a former Wykoff mayor, was another caller who objected, the first of many to note that expanding highways is not proven to actually alleviate traffic.

“I just want to state my objection to any expansion to any approach to the Holland Tunnel including I-78 for the reasons already given … It’s simply documented over, and over, and over again in transportation literature. If roads need to be repaired, repair them. If bridges need to be fixed, fix them. But do not widen any roads,” he said.

He was also critical of the 9 a.m. start time of the meeting on a work day, as well as beginning by going into executive session, noting that could’ve waited until after public comment had concluded.

While the overwhelming majority on the call opposed the extension, Hudson County Central Labor Council President Barry Kushnir, a lifelong Bayonne resident, spoke in favor.

“ … It’s critical that we rebuild this bridge: take it from me, I’m 52 years old, I grew up in Downtown Bayonne … it took me two hours to take public transit to Downtown Jersey City where I went to high school,” he began.

“Traffic is already there, traffic has been there for decades and unless we rebuild and expand this bridge it may create a catastrophe that would not only hurt our economic growth, but also the well being of our residents,” pointing to bridge collapses in Mississippi and Pittsburgh.

Others stated that in terms of social and environmental justice, this project misses the mark by a wide margin.

“This makes no sense on the merits and it just goes against [Gov. Phil] Murphy’s climate goals and is bad for our health: these are all facts that we know, act accordingly,” said Jersey City resident Robert Howley.

“The needed repairs should move forward, but there should be no expansion of the turnpike. By expanding the turnpike you’re doing two things: it will increase traffic and it will increase air pollution,” said Chris Adair, of Bike Hoboken.

Colin DeVries, a board member of Safe Streets Jersey City, urged the board “not to fall for the jobs trope,” noting that there are plenty of high-paying jobs related to transportation infrastructure in this area, and that the state needs to pivot to “a health holistic approach.”

Harsimus Cove Association President Eleana Little noted that their neighborhood is considered an environmental justice community by the state, noting that the expansion would lead to more cars, and therefore more air pollution, on municipal roads to avoid turnpike traffic.

Another Jersey City resident, Dana Patton, questioned why Murphy had not called off the project altogether at this point.

” … I don’t understand if the governor truly cares about environmental causes and social justice, why is this project moving forward! As almost all the other speakers have pointed out: expanding highways does not work!”

Several speakers also noted that the air quality in Hudson County has received an F from the American Lung Association, as well as pointing out that NJTA Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, also the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, told the state Senate they would not be allocating funds towards the expansion.

After public portion concluded, Gutierrez-Scaccetti said that when she speaks to the legislature, she is speaking as the head of the NJ DOT, not on behalf of the NJTA.

The board took no formal action on the turnpike extension before the meeting concluded around 11:15 a.m.

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