New Jersey Turnpike Authority hears vocal opposition to now $10.7B widening project

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The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTPA) board meeting heard vocal opposition to the proposed expansion of I-78 into the Holland Tunnel and New York City that has recently more than doubled its projected cost to $10.7 billion.

New Jersey Turnpike Exit 14B. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The project is opposed by Jersey City and Hoboken officials, along with the Empower NJ coalition – which includes the local traffic safety group Safe Streets JC. New Jersey

In August, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) came out in favor of the project shortly after Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative Director Mark Longo spoke out against opponents to the plan. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) has highlighted the labor jobs the project would bring.

“Buried in that budget, it’s the authority’s cost of the projection, which is astounding at $10.7 billion. You do not take any of these public comments seriously. This whole process is a sham,” John Reichman, counsel for Empower NJ, said on the call this morning.

” … The authority literally wants to spend 20 times what it needs to. It will increase, not decrease, traffic congestion. The new $10.7 billion cost projection must be the death knell for this project.”

He urged them to get input from stakeholders, who had been speaking up at meetings for months back when the proposal was budgeted at $4.7 billion.

“In light of the exorbitant new costs, this project needs to come to a complete halt now,” stated Bike Hoboken President Chris Adair.

“Governor Murphy … you can make good on your promise to improve NJ Transit. Be the progressive climate governor you claim to be, and stop the turnpike authority. Veto their minutes.”

Many other spoke adamantly against the project and agreed it should be scrapped completely.

“Scrap this 10 billion extension project. Fatal crashes are predictable and preventable. I’ve had to deal with serious and sometimes fatal respiratory complaints,” Jersey City EMT Tyler Newcomb said, notng the American Lung Association gives Hudson an “F” rating.

“This $10 billion project is a complete waste of money. It will worsen our community.

Additionally, Matthew Golden argued expanding the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail for “only” $3 billion would be a better solution to reduce traffic.

“The bridge itself could use repairs. Spending all this money to expand it, making the health of people worse …  can’t be that good. I urge Governor Phil Murphy and the board to not approve this work,” he stated.

Talya Schwartz, another Jersey City resident, said this project would set the precedent where “we’ll be expanding the highways forever” and added that Hudson County should be in a state of emergency, making the claim based on her child suffering from asthma that isn’t exacerbated in other parts of the state.

Hudson County Complete Streets President Emmanuelle Morgen also hammered home the point about poor air quality, exclaiming that the air pollution causes thousands of deaths a year.

“50 percent of pollution comes for tire dust and break dust,” Morgen said, arguing that increased electric vehicles will not help and that investing in alternative transportation would be better.

“We cannot tolerate more motor vehicle traffic in our area or our world. We need an additional PATH station,” she added, also advocating for more bike lanes.

She also pointed out that there is regularly a moment of silence for gun violence and rarely for crash victims.

“I oppose the plan for the expansion of the I-78 extension. I cannot find a good reason to expand it. Obviously, the labor unions and the construction industry want you to spend the money. There is no possible justification,” said Raphael Wakefield.

“This is just about you and the road building unions and the roadbuilding companies and the governor’s desire to appease them.”

Doug O’Malley, of Environment NJ, called the concept “a disaster for Jersey City” that would impact climate change and make local streets more dangerous.

“We are taking money away from valid transportation projects … We are essentially looking at highway robbery. It strains credibility to say it is solely a supply chain issue,” he asserted.

“Climate scientists have said we have seven years to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Please wake up. You have a historical opportunity to reduce climate change. Go back to the drawing board,” Holly Cox said.

Furthermore, Safe Streets JC President Jimmy Lee called the plan “wrong,” as well as “backward and outdated,” noting that the nearby bridges could be repaired for just five percent of the cost of the expansion.

“This is a gross mismanagement of the fund entrusted to the turnpike,” Lee exclaimed.

Brian Scanlon called the project “a total boondoggle” that would reduce the health and life expectancies of nearby residents, all while the mass transit system flounders.

Edgar Lopez, who spoke on behalf of Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2), said it would hurt students at nearby elementary schools, as well Dickinson High School.

“We in Newark suffer from a variety of health issues already. We already suffer from poor air quality. This is akin to slow genocide,” Newark Environmental Commission Co-Chair Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds stated.

“No long-term report or study has been shown to the public on the impact. This is going to be adding to the waste of taxpayer money. It is causing a lack of funding for mass transit funding projects. New York City doesn’t want more people driving into New York,” added Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.

The board concluded without taking any formal action on the proposal this morning.


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