U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) again said that President Donald Trump (R) is “weaponizing” the Gateway Tunnel project after commitments from both New Jersey and New York to pay roughly 50 percent for the nation’s largest, albeit stalled, infrastructure project.
We had an opportunity to ask him again about the progress of Gateway funding and whether Trump was still “weaponizing” the DOT against Gateway when he was in Hoboken yesterday to partake in a ribbon cutting for a brand new building for the American Legion Post 107 that will house up to six homeless veterans.
“I still believe that he is weaponizing the Gateway project. The good news is that we circumvented him by providing funding through Congressional directives, particularly to Amtrak, that can be pocketed away towards the project,” began Menendez.
“The problem is we’d ultimately build Gateway quicker, less expensive and more on time if we had the administration’s support, which we should have because this is a project of national significance.”
Menendez was referring to an agreement by federal lawmakers in May where the new legislation, in order to avoid a Trump veto threat on Gateway funding, directs funds into several accounts – such as Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor – with the understanding that the extra dollars would be used for the Gateway project.
And recently, both New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed off on legislation that creates a bi-state agency, the Gateway Development Corporation, which is supposed to satisfy federal guidelines of a bi-state entity in charge of overseeing the planning.
Ultimately, this entity will be in charge of the financing and construction of the approximately $13 billion project. However, federal dollars are still not forthcoming.
U.S. Senators Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with Trump in May for a second round of talks to figure out ways to pay for a $2 trillion dollar infrastructure package, but Trump walked out of the meeting, saying he “can’t do it under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with.”
We asked Menendez if he saw any correlation between the House Democratic majority wanting to pursue investigations of Trump’s alleged ties with Russian officials that helped him in the 2016 election and the lack of funding for Gateway.
“The President started this issue even before those questions arose. He is using it as a political weapon, particularly against the Democratic leader in the Senate because he wants him to succumb to a series of issues that have nothing to do with Gateway, and it’s really outrageous,” said Menendez.
In June 2018, Menendez was in Bayonne to announce $1.1 million federal funding for the Bayonne Dry Dock.
At that time, New Jersey had announced that it would be investing up to $600 million through state-appropriation backed bonds to construct a new Portal Bridge North over the Hackensack River, another critical infrastructure piece of the Gateway project.
But shortly thereafter, the head of the Federal Transit Administration said that the project still was ineligible for federal grants because both New Jersey and New York still did not identify up to 30 percent of local funds, as reported by Crain’s NY.
At the Bayonne press event in 2018, we asked Menendez about the FTA’s statement, which compelled him to say “you can’t be weaponizing the Department of Transportation against a project of national significance.”