New Jersey is ready to move forward with its plans to replace the Portal Bridge, the first phase of the ambitious $30 billion Gateway project, as soon as it gets a green light of cooperation from the Trump administration, Gov. Phil Murphy said at a press conference Tuesday in Secaucus.
New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th District, chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which serves as one of the first gatekeepers for enacting federal appropriations every year.
Frelinghuysen is stepping down from office in January, and Murphy’s office has indicated that until then, New Jersey’s state lawmakers and a Congressional delegation would be pushing for Frelinghuysen to tack on more funding into whatever appropriations bills move through his committee.
Murphy, at his Tuesday presser overlooking the Portal Bridge, was joined by Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, three members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation and several Hudson County officials, all Democrats.
Murphy was also flanked New Jersey Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett, Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti and New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan.
The governor on Tuesday called the Portal Bridge “shovel-ready.”
“We have committed our funding,” Murphy said. “We were asked by the federal government to put more skin in the game, and we did and then some.”
The Portal Bridge carries trains along the busy Northeast Corridor Line to and from New York. It spans the Hackensack River at a low height, meaning it has to swing open to allow boats to pass through, and often has trouble realigning, causing delays for commuters traveling into Manhattan.
In June, the NJEDA pledged $600 million in bonds to finance the bridge, after the U.S. Department of Transportation said it would throw in a far smaller amount of funding than promised under the Obama administration. But soon after, federal transportation officials indicated New Jersey hadn’t met the proper deadlines to submit its funding plans.
Menendez, who is seeking reelection this year, said federal officials have been seeking to block the Gateway project wherever possible.
“It’s time to stop playing games,” Menendez said. “This is a fight the administration can’t win.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Tom Bracken issued a statement calling the Gateway project "critical to attracting and keeping business" in the state.
"Gateway is an investment in New Jersey’s long-term economic health and growth," Bracken said. "Without it, we will not have a fully maximized infrastructure and it will lessen our ability to compete for business with neighboring states."