Gateway Program cheerleaders took center stage at the Transportation Awards Breakfast at the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel in Newark on Monday.
Project plans include adding a rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River and replacing a portion of New Jersey’s frail Portal Bridge at a price most estimates put north of $20 billion.
“Looming large is the need to fund the Gateway Program,” said Acting Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who was expected to be confirmed in her post later Monday. “Gov. [Phil] Murphy knows that the longer we wait, the more likely a catastrophic event occurs. We are both optimistic that Gateway will be built. We will find that solution.”
Gutierrez-Scaccetti said New Jersey is heading into a transformative period.
“Real progress will be measured by the restoration of faith in our public transit system and by delivering on the promise of state of good repair that was instrumental in re-authorizing the trust fund,” she said. “We will build our success on the pillars of enhanced connectivity across the state and region, of applying the latest technology to help catalog problems, on transparency to the public with improved customer service.”
Barbara E. Kauffman, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, said New Jersey’s economic future is dependent on the transportation network.
“Gateway is the most important project,” Kauffman said.
Former Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer, honored at the breakfast with a lifetime achievement award, said transportation and the state economy are integrally linked.
“Please let’s make Gateway happen,” Palmer said. “It is so critical for the region.”
Other recipients of awards were James Blackmore, program director, Goethals Bridge Modernization, Port Authority New York & New Jersey; Rick Hammer, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation; Jean Laird, senior project manager of structures design at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority; E. David Lambert III, an assistant commissioner at the NJDOT; RJ Palladino, senior program manager at New Jersey Transit; Marie Corrado, senior director at the Gateway Program, Amtrak; and Bob Atkins, director of the New Jersey Health Initiatives.