RIDGEWOOD, NJ – Today, ahead of the President’s planned infrastructure announcement, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced his “Five Point Plan to Cut Our Commutes and Expand Our Economy.”
From the Ridgewood Park-and-Ride, Gottheimer announced that his plan would modernize the formulas for federal funding for infrastructure projects, so Moocher States stop robbing our tax dollars for the critical projects we have in New Jersey. States like New Jersey that pay more in federal tax dollars deserve and should expect to get more back in investment. The plan would also boost New Jersey’s return on investment via grant programs, get the Gateway Tunnel back on track, support the bipartisan infrastructure report put forth by the Problem Solvers Caucus, and provide job-creating investments to fix New Jersey’s crumbling roads, bridges, and rails and spur economic growth.
“Today, I’m proud to stand with Coach USA to announce my Five-Point Plan to Cut Our Commutes and Expand Our Economy. We need to modernize the formulas for federal funding for infrastructure projects, so Moocher States don’t rob our resources for the critical projects we have in New Jersey. Infrastructure investment is one of the greatest economic multipliers there is. We know that for every dollar we invest in infrastructure, we generate three dollars in output gains,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “ If we make these necessary improvements in New Jersey to our roads, bridges, and tunnels, and cut our taxes and unnecessary regulations, we will have the competitive advantage and entice more jobs and businesses to come, not just to our country, but to our state and do business with us.”
Sean Hughes, Director of Corporate Affairs, Coach USA North America, said, “Investing into infrastructure is critical for the safety of our passengers, teammates and fellow motorists. By investing into infrastructure, our trips will be safer; the drive will be smoother on the roads for both our drivers and passengers. This investment will help all transportation companies run more efficiently both financially and in a timely manner.”
Pedro Mercado, President of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 225, said, “I would like to thank Congressman Gottheimer for his leadership in making infrastructure investment in bridges, tunnels, and roads a priority. The safety of our union members, all of our passengers, and everyone that travels the roads on a daily basis is vital for our region.”
Video of the event can be found HERE.
|Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announces his “Five Point Plan to Cut Our Commutes and Expand Our Economy” alongside (left to right) Luis Rodriguez, General Manager of Shortline Bus, and Steve Hamm, President of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 229.
Below are Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Nowhere does crumbling infrastructure get in the way of our success and forward movement more than here in New Jersey.
Recent headlines about New Jersey’s infrastructure are nothing short of a nightmare: “114-year old Bridge Collapses.” “NJ Bridge Collapses, Tanker Cars Releasing Toxic Gas,” and who can forget the “Summer of Hell,” where many of our trains ground to a halt because of massive disrepair on the rails heading into Penn Station.
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded our infrastructure recently and gave our transit at D-. Our roads and bridges did a little better—they managed to snag a D+. NJ Transit had the worst on-time statistics in the country.
According to NJ.com, our District contains a fifth of the worst commutes in the state. Ridgewood is the 13th worst in the state. Ridgewood workers take an average of 39 minutes to get to work every day. Commuters from here and nearby towns can take up to two hours or more to get to work in the morning.
We talk often about trains but 6.6 percent of commuters go by bus in New Jersey, over Coach or NJ Transit or the Port Authority’s PATH system.
Coach USA buses are forced to drive on the eighth worst roads in the country. Just as one example, last year, the wheels of a Coach bus rode over a large pothole on the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, forcing the bus out of service for two weeks and ultimately causing $15,000 worth of damages.
Our pothole-ridden roads here in New Jersey cost the average motorist $667 in repairs each year. Of our 6,730 bridges in our state, nearly one-third of all our bridges and tunnels are classified as functionally obsolete.
And of the twenty-five percent structurally deficient bridges that are most heavily traveled, more than a third, are here in Bergen County. That list includes three over Route 4 that so many rely on to get to work every day—and all three predate FDR’s election to the White House. Most train commuters would be shocked to learn that the Hudson tunnels they count on are 107 years old.
These aren’t just statistics. Crumbling infrastructure puts lives at risk.
Joe Sanzari has told me that crews use poles under overpasses and bridges to check the crumbling concrete. Just last week, one bridge going into Newark was literally caving in and they had to prop it up.
Of course, tragically this past Sunday morning, an Amtrak passenger train traveling from New York to Miami hit a freight train parked on a side track in South Carolina, claiming two lives and injuring more than 100 people.
And last week, an Amtrak train carrying congressional lawmakers killed one passenger and injured others as it slammed into a garbage truck on its way to a Republican retreat in West Virginia.
In New Jersey, in September 2016, a commuter train plowed into the barrier at Hoboken Terminal, killing one individual and injuring more than 100 people. This week, the NTSB officially announced that the driver suffered from sleep apnea, a disease that could have been controlled for if we’d only implemented the right infrastructure precautions. NJ positive train control ranks near the bottom – and we are far behind. That’s unacceptable. We can’t have it that our children and our families riding on rails that aren’t safe.
And it’s not only trains.
We were all shocked and horrified when, in 2016, a piece of concrete fell from a bridge in Texas and crushed a young girl whose family happened to be driving under the span.
As a father of two young children, I just can’t imagine what that family has been through, especially given that it was a preventable disaster.
No one should fear driving their children across a bridge or through a tunnel that we know to be less than completely safe and up to date, especially in a country on the cutting edge of technology and in a state as essential to the U.S. economy as New Jersey.
Thousands ride on NJ Transit buses, which are out of date and give commuters no guarantee they’ll show up on time.
Then, of course, there are the NJ Transit and Amtrak trains that ride underneath the Hudson every day. There are two tubes with one rail going in and one going out. More than one hundred years old, and, in the wake of being flooded with 13 million gallons of saltwater during Superstorm Sandy, they are both literally crumbling.
I met with the chairman of Amtrak last week and I appreciate their work to get things moving for the Gateway project to fix the tunnels and add two new ones. But we are way behind.
We can only get twenty-four trains in and out of the city in an hour, given that we only have two tracks operating into New York City; that’s outrageous and no way to run an economy.
In 2016 alone, major delays happened 125 times, or one major delay every two days. Our current tunnels are at capacity and ridership doubled between the 1976 and 2014. If even one tunnel had to shut down the region could not run 75% of current trains, resulting in even more delays
The nerve center of our financial economy runs through this region. One fifth of the American economy depends on those tunnels transporting trains between DC, New York, and Boston. If that route shuts down, the U.S. economy loses $100 million per day—or $36.5 billion per year—according to the Northeast Corridor Commission.
Again, these tunnels are 110 years old. They were completed in 1908 and became operational in 1910.
Just think about that for a second—in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt was the president, the production of Model T began in the fall, and in the spring, we had the first passenger flight in an airplane. Fast forward 110 years, New Jersey is now part of the country’s busiest transportation region no matter how you look at it—from a plane, a car on the highway, a train car, or bus. Our state is actually second-in-the-nation, percentage-wise, of commuters who rely on public transit.
New Jersey is the best place in the world, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Families want to come to New Jersey, they want to raise their children here and volunteer on school boards and strengthen our communities. Businesses want to invest their time and money here, they want to build facilities, create jobs, raise wages, and infuse energy into the local economy.
Yet our neglected infrastructure literally drives them out of our state.
We are increasingly having trouble recruiting people and businesses to come to and stay in New Jersey because of our infrastructure. I hear it all the time from CEOs and from would-be constituents.
Other states are luring them with their new, wider roads and shorter commuting times.
No one likes spending their time sitting in traffic or on a broken-down train or bus when they could be seeing their kids. And the thousands of riders of the Bergen County, Main, and Pascack Valley lines understandably hate having to transfer to get into the city, only to arrive in Penn Station, where they must fight with the other 600,000 daily commuters.
Eight thousand commuters take the Pascack Valley Line, daily. Statewide, New Jersey Transit’s railroad carries 165,000 people a day. And the sorry state of our infrastructure means we’re having to leave for work earlier in the morning, getting home later in the evenings, and losing valuable time with our families.
All the while, we pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. In North Jersey, we are paying far too much in federal taxes, and the disastrous Tax Hike Bill is only going make that worse—eliminating our State and Local Tax deductions, increasing our taxes and lowering our property values.
My District pays some of the highest federal taxes in the nation, and historically has only gotten back 33 cents on the dollar for what is sent to Washington. Compared that to what I call the “Moocher States,” like Mississippi, which gets back $4.38 for every dollar sent to D.C. These Moocher States are giving themselves relief, taking our reserves for our roads, bridges, and tunnels, and sticking New Jersey with the bill.
We must act now to stop New Jersey from being America’s piggy bank. Public and private organizations and government on all levels must come together to improve our infrastructure and return on investment for our state and for our country.
Today, I’m proud to announce my five point plan to Cut Our Commutes and Expand Our Economy.
First, I’m calling to reform the current formulas for determining how federal funds are allocated. States like ours that put more in deserve to get more out.
The Department of Transportation needs to use it’s discretion– be it in TIGER Grants or Bus and Bus Facilities Grants Program– to bring balance to infrastructure and transportation project investment. These formulas need to be adjusted to give more preference to net payer states like New Jersey, who are putting in more tax dollars than they’re getting back. To get at this problem, I helped introduce a bipartisan bill with Congressman Bill Foster called the Fair Allocation of Highway Funds Act. It makes changes to the formula for federal highway transportation funding to make sure each state gets the right share.
Right now, we’ve got Moocher States paying less and getting more back. These are the federal tax dollars New Jersey is disproportionately paying. It’s win win for the Moocher States right now. Or as I prefer to say, mooch mooch.
These formulas are outrageous. In one bus grant program, they’re being pushed to states like Louisiana based on their population, not on what they pay in taxes. That has to change—and I’m going to fix it.
Second, we have to increase our overall return on investment. If we’re already only getting back 33 cents on the dollar we pay in, more of our federal tax dollars shouldn’t be going to infrastructure investments in moocher states. They should be coming home. I’m working hard to fight the Tax Hike Bill and fight for federal grants opportunities to bring more federal dollars to the district to boost the return on the dollars we’ve already sent to D.C.
Third, my bipartisan “Get on Board to Fix the Tunnel Act” will get the Gateway Tunnel back on track by bringing the Administration to the table. We need to end this game of finger-pointing and shirking responsibility and get this done. This Gateway project will have a far-reaching impact on America’s economy.
Fourth, I’ve been working with my fellow members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to implement our bipartisan report for rebuilding and responsibly investing in infrastructure across the country.
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure system won’t come free. But by incentivizing private innovation and investment and targeted public investment, cutting unnecessary regulations, making decisions, and increasing accountability to taxpayers, we can foster a truly 21st Century economy that pay dividends over time.
Fifth, I’ve been calling for bipartisan infrastructure legislation that provides job-creating investments to fix New Jersey’s crumbling roads, bridges, and rail and spur economic growth. This can’t be a partisan effort like the Tax Hike Bill. If we want legislation that is truly lasting and truly impactful, then it can’t be partisan. Otherwise, it will just become another point for shutdowns and sailing rhetoric.
I’m eager to see the Administration’s soon-to-be-released infrastructure proposal to help improve our crumbling rails, roads, and tunnels, which I hope hews to the principles I’ve laid out. And it needs to invest in states like New Jersey, cut regulation unnecessarily holding things up, and get our roads, bridges, and tunnels fixed now.
I’m eager to begin working with the Administration to move our country’s infrastructure forward, and I’ve met with the President and his staff multiple times on this issue.
Everyone must play a role in improving our roads, rail, and bridges.
Of course public-private partnerships should play a role in infrastructure investment as well as public investment. If we’re going to make America strong as it should be, we’ve got to make sure we’re bringing those dollars back. I’ve heard some rumors about getting 20 percent back from what we invest at the local and state level, and that to me would be unacceptable giving what we pay in taxes. That number is not even in line with history, and a real problem given what we pay in taxes, and it’s going to leave important projects like the Gateway out of reach.
As Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, I can tell you that there’s nothing Democrat or Republican about fixing our roads and bridges—it’s just a good for America issue. It’s a good for Jersey issue. In fact, it was Republican President Eisenhower who recognized how vital infrastructure is to our economy and security and who led the way to build the interstate highway system.
Infrastructure investment is one of the greatest economic multipliers there is. We know that for every dollar we invest in infrastructure, we generate three dollars in output gains. Investing in infrastructure puts money back into our economy, creates strong jobs, and increases our return on the investment that we already send to Washington, D.C.
Politicians on both sides have punted time and time again. We can no longer afford to sit idly by. No more punting. It’s time to get it done.
The bottom line: you can’t have a first-rate state with second-class infrastructure.
If we make these necessary infrastructure improvements here in New Jersey, and cut our taxes and unnecessary regulations, we will have the competitive advantage and entice more companies to come, not just to our country, but to our state and do business with us.
It’s time we got moving.
Thank you, and may God bless America.