U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and New Jersey federal representatives for another groundbreaking of the $2.7 billion Portal North Bridge project.
“I think this is our fourth time here doing a press conference: the first two were to urge the former federal administration to end its stonewalling of this project to join with us in partnership to get this and other critical parts of the Gateway program certified and funded,” recalled Murphy.
“In fairness, we were able to make some progress, but this project was stalled and every day that was wasted cost money: both costs related to maintaining that bulky, 112 year-old and the cost to our national and regional economy every time a train had to be delayed.”
The governor also praised the leadership of President Joe Biden (D) and Buttigieg, the former who touted his $2 billion infrastructure bills and advanced the Portal Bridge North project at a press conference at a nearby location in Kearny back in October.
The month prior, NJ Transit awarded a $1.6 billion contract to renovate the over a century old bridge and then in March, Biden announced that $339,519,539 in federal funds would be allocated towards the infrastructure project in this year’s budget.
During his public remarks, Buttigieg noted that sometimes when the bridge needs to be closed, rail workers need to pound the rails back into alignment with sledgehammers.
“It would be frustrating anywhere, but it’s not acceptable at the busiest rail bridge in the country. This project turns the Portal North Bridge from a turn point to an access point, it modernizes the way that people and goods get to and from this region – that is responsible for 20 percent of America’s economic product.”
Menendez noted that he has been working on this project since he was a member of the House of Representatives and then in the Senate along with the late Frank Lautenberg. While they secured historic federal funding, it ended up falling to the wayside.
“Simply put, the Portal Bridge is a chokepoint on the busiest stretch of rail in America, and it is a chokepoint on the future,” the senator stated.
His colleague, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, said this project is an example of New Jersey “standing up and showing a little pride.”
“I am sick and tired of having this region, with two percent of the land mass in American but we contribute 20 percent of the economy of this country. And I will tell you right now, time and time again we have seen underinvestment. Disrespect, disregard, hell, we’ve just been plain dissed,” he exclaimed.
“This is not charity: This is investing in the most profitable region in the United States of America. For every dollar of infrastructure invested in a project like this, we’re getting more than five back.”
He appeared to be addressing a New York Daily News editorial that called the project “illegally funded” and “defrauded the federal government.”
The majority of New Jersey congressional delegations, including U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-5), Tom Malinowski (D-7), Bill Pascrell (D-9), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), Mikie Sherrill (D-11), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12).
Representatives from NJ Transit, Amtrak, and labor leaders were also on hand for the event, along with Kearny Mayor Al Santos and Craig Guy, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s chief of staff.