Rep. Gottheimer introduces the Get On Board to Fix the Tunnel Act at the Oradell Train Station.
(Left to right: Oradell Mayor Dianne Didio, Councilman Tom Kelly, Councilwoman Tracy Schoenberg, and Congressman Josh Gottheimer)
Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) announced the Get On Board to Fix the Tunnel Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at getting the critical Gateway Tunnel project moving. The Gateway Project will help get New Jersey and New York back on track by doubling the train capacity under the Hudson, expanding Penn Station’s intake, and giving the region’s commuters the efficiency they need. New York and New Jersey rank first and second in percentage of commuters who rely on public transportation, but chronically rank among the worst in terms of on-time performance.
Announced today by Congressman Josh Gottheimer at the Oradell train station, the bipartisan legislation will get the Administration back on the Gateway Program Development Corporation Board by requiring Secretary Elaine Chao to appoint a federal representative from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the board within 30 days, making much-needed progress on this project of national significance. According to USA Today, our “region generates $1.3 trillion in economic output — 9% of the value of all sales of goods and services across the USA.” That reflects how critical Gateway is to our nation, which is why all of the key stakeholders need to be at the table to move construction forward for economic reasons.
“The bipartisan Get On Board to Fix the Tunnel Act would 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 – if one tunnel were to collapse, it would have a devastating impact on our economy, the region, and the entire country. The nerve center of our financial economy runs through this region. One fifth of the American economy depends on those tunnels transporting trains between D.C., New York, and Boston. If that route shuts down, the U.S. economy loses $100 million per day – or $36.5 billion per year. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue — it’s just a good for America issue. The Administration needs to be at the table. It’s the only way that New Jersey we can move forward with a 21st century economy,” said Congressman Gottheimer.
To view the full text of the bill, click HERE.
Video of the event can be viewed HERE.
Rep. Gottheimer’s remarks in their entirety are listed below:
The headlines on New Jersey’s infrastructure are nothing short of a horror film: “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.
Yesterday, the 118-year-old Portal Bridge jammed open causing a two hour delay in traffic. One New Jersey resident started their day at 9 a.m. from New Jersey and got into the City at 1 p.m. This bridge will be fixed by Gateway.
NJ Transit was just hit with the largest penalty the Federal Railroad Administration has proposed for failing to meet its own safety benchmarks.
The facts are jarring.
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded our infrastructure recently and gave our transit at D-. Our roads and bridges got a D+.
My district – New Jersey’s Fifth — contains a fifth of the worst commutes in the state, according to NJ.com.
Yet, we have the eighth worst roads in the country – 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, 1,684 bridges, and almost 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. 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 young children, I just can’t imagine what that family has been through, especially given that it was a preventable disaster.
I’ve been told by several construction companies that crews regularly travel our roads, inspecting overpasses by literally poking at loose-looking sections of concrete with long poles.
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 state like ours where we pay too much in taxes, and living in a country on the cutting edge. Yet, millions cross over America’s bridges every day where the infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath them, with corroded steel and loose concrete.
Our state is second-in-the-nation, percentage-wise, of commuters who rely on public transit. NJ Transit had more trains breakdowns last year than any other commuter railroad in America. And 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. On the weekend, they shut one of the two tubes down so that workers can patch them up as best of possible.
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. On the weekends, because of repairs, that numbers drops to six.
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.
If one of those tunnels were to collapse, God forbid, it would have a devastating impact on our economy, the region, and the entire country. The nerve center of our financial economy runs through this region. One fifth of the American economy depends on those tunnels transporting trains between D.C., 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.
I just came from Ridgewood, where families deal with the 13th worst commute times in the whole state. It takes forever to cross the 13 miles between there and New York City because our tunnels are literally crumbling. 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. I would say it’s time for an update.
Look at it another way. 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.
It’s one of the biggest reasons CEOs regularly tell me about why their businesses left or are considering leaving our state; they believe we’ve stopped investing in our infrastructure. Other states are luring them with their new, wider roads and shorter commuting times.
We can’t entice 21st century companies to set up shop and grow or stay here in New Jersey with 20th century infrastructure that’s been patched and repaired for decades when we know it needs replacing.
No one likes spending their time sitting in traffic or on a broken-down train. And the thousands of riders of the Bergen County, Main, and Pascack Valley lines behind me, here in Oradell, 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.
We know these infrastructure investments lead to long-term GDP growth and are the key to drawing and keeping companies here. We know that for every dollar we invest in infrastructure, we generate three dollars in output gains. By failing to act and close the infrastructure investment gap, it’s estimated that our nation’s GDP will take a nearly 4 billion loss by 2025 and we will lose two and a half million jobs.
And there is nothing partisan about this issue. 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, Republican President Eisenhower recognized how vital infrastructure is to our economy and security when he led the way to build the interstate highway system.
The bottom line: you can’t have a first-rate state with second-class infrastructure.
That’s why we must address this problem – now.
That’s where the Gateway Project comes in. By doubling the train capacity under the Hudson, expanding Penn Station’s intake, and giving Bergen County riders a one-seat ride with a new “Secaucus Loop,” the Gateway Project will help North Jersey get back on track for economic growth.
Work has already begun on this critical program. Last year, I ventured underneath the Hudson Yards project to see the first phase of the Gateway tunnels – the tunnel box – where trains would come out underneath the Hudson and connect to Penn Station. I want to thank Amtrak for their investment in that project. It’s already there, but the part we need most – the new two tubes under the river – are still waiting for us to say go.
Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen has allocated the resources and so has the Senate. We’ve met with the President and his team to plead the case and they seemed to understand the urgency. Our two Senators and Congressional delegation have worked overtime. But, yet, we’re stuck.
Some people say it’s resources. Now, let’s be clear. My district is one of the top three percent tax paying districts in the country – way too high, in my opinion. Yet, historically, we’ve only gotten back 33 cents for every dollar we send to Washington. Compare that to West Virginia: $4.23, Alabama: $3.02, South Carolina: $3.05, and Mississippi: $4.83. And then they just jacked up our taxes even more. It’s time we claw our New Jersey tax dollars back to fix our own issues and economy, starting with Gateway.
I’m sick of the Moocher States taking our money, while we have to fight to fix these crumbling tunnels.
Now, Jersey is going to have to fight back hard because as we saw in the recent Tax Hike Bill, the Moocher States are organized against us.
In 2016, the Gateway Program Development Corporation, or GDC, was established to oversee this project and bring it across the finish line, working with both local and federal partners. At the time, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx served on the four-person board. However, in June 2017, this Administration informed the Port Authority that Secretary Chao would no longer serve—abandoning the project and our region.
This is just an unnecessary holdup for a region that generates $1.3 trillion in economic output – 9% of the value of all sales of goods and services across the U.S.
That is why today, I’m proud to announce my bipartisan “Get On-board to Fix the Tunnel Act.” The legislation is co-sponsored with Republican Pete King of New York.
When the Department of Transportation decided in July to pull out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation’s board of trustees, it delivered a serious roadblock to our ability to sit stakeholders at the table and solve the problems facing the problem. Contractors won’t start the job, even though it’s teed-up and ready, unless every participating party, including the federal government, is at the table.
Having discussed this with the President himself, I know that he is familiar with it as a New Yorker and I’m hopeful he truly understand its importance. While some say the Administration’s recent announcements to pull out of a cost-sharing agreement at the end of 2017 is a political maneuver lining up other negotiations, I really believe this project can’t be a political football; rather, this should be a bipartisan American project. I’m hoping that’s just a negotiating tactic. This is about New Jersey’s economy, New York’s economy, and the economy of the entire Northeast.
My Get On Board to Fix the Tunnel Act will help get the Gateway Tunnel back on track by requiring the Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to appoint a federal representative from the DOT to the Gateway Development Corporations Board of Trustees within 30 days. We need to end this game of finger-pointing and shirking responsibility and get this done. This project will have a far-reaching impact on America’s economy and the federal government needs to be at the table. It’s the only way that we can move forward with a 21st century economy.
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.
I thank the strong support from the New Jersey and New York delegation on this issue, including Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Congressman Pete King, the Republican co-lead of the Get On Board to Fix the Tunnel Act.
Thank you and may God bless America.