Today, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and local North Jersey labor leaders and announced the release of a bipartisan infrastructure strategy from the Problem Solvers Caucus and the introduction of bipartisan legislation to move the Gateway Tunnel project forward.
1. Gottheimer announced that he will be introducing the “Get On-Board to Fix the Tunnel Act,” which 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 Corporation’s Board of Trustees within 30 days. One-fifth of the American economy depends on those tunnels transporting trains between D.C., New York, and Boston.
2. Gottheimer also announced need to change federal transportation and infrastructure formulas to get more federal tax dollars away from Moocher States and back to New Jersey.
3. Also, today, the Problem Solvers Caucus is releasing its bipartisan policy recommendations to build a 21st century infrastructure network for the United States. The plan serves as a foundation for efforts to address the dire need to rebuild and responsibly invest in infrastructure in North Jersey and across the country. Infrastructure investment is good for jobs and short- and long-term economic growth. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a dollar in infrastructure can have as much as a $2.50 impact on our GDP.
Joining Gottheimer at today’s announcement were Nick Vaugh, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Greg Lalevee, Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825; Rick Sabato, President of the Bergen County Building & Construction Trades Council; Mike Schneider, President of the Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council; and Stephen Fluhr, Vice President of Development for Garden State Plaza.
“It’s more important than ever that we have an infrastructure system that’s working. And this morning’s event – bringing together the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and our labor leaders — is a testament that there is nothing partisan about fixing our roads, rails, bridges, and tunnels, especially the Gateway Project,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “We’ve got to put aside other partisan stunts and make sure we’re coming together to stop our infrastructure from crumbling further. I’m laser-focused on working with all partners, like the ones here today, to cut red tape, to get our taxes down by reinstating SALT, and to update our antiquated federal infrastructure and transportation formulas to claw more of our federal tax dollars back to Jersey, instead of continuing to stream into the Moocher States.”
“This issue is not a partisan issue. Labor and the business community are in lock step in ensuring that our nation’s infrastructure needs are fully funded,” said Nick Vaugh of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “And it’s leaders like Josh Gottheimer that are working in a bipartisan effort to make sure this happens.”
“A strong infrastructure is vital to the economic health of a state,” said Michael Schneider, President of the Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council. “And we support Josh Gottheimer for all he does down in Washington, on a bipartisan level to get everything he can for the residents of New Jersey and the infrastructure is our biggest concern right now.”
“All we do is advocate for infrastructure. If we don’t have great infrastructure in the State of New Jersey, we’ll have less investment,” said Rick Sabato, President of the Bergen County Building & Construction Trades Council. “If the Gateway Tunnel shuts down, the economy through the I-95 corridor will suffer greatly. It’s vital that we get these things done and Josh is at the forefront of doing it.”
“Take a look at the Gateway Tunnel. Twenty percent of our GDP stands at risk every day that we don’t act. The call to action on what to do is crystal clear: to plan long-term infrastructure investment to keep ourselves economically viable and ahead of our competitors around the world.” said Greg Lalevee, Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825. “So, we are very happy to stand with Congressman Gottheimer and salute his leadership in this.”
“We need to make major investments in our infrastructure,” said Stephen Fluhr, Vice President of Development for Garden State Plaza. “Infrastructure is a big part of people being able to get to Garden State Plaza…today and into the future.”
Video of the announcement can be found here.
Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
It’s terrific to be in Paramus, America’s top retail zip code, just a stone’s throw from the mall, which just announced plans to expand in the coming years. And those new homes, restaurants and shops here at the Garden State Plaza will be built by union labor, and I hope it will be joined by fixing the roads and bridges around here, too. Thank you, Stephen Fluhr, Vice President of Development for the Garden State Plaza mall, for your work in revitalizing this place and for the investment you all are making in North Jersey.
It’s incredible to have labor and business coming together to drive the economy and to shine a light on such an important issue for our District, for our state and region, and across the country. We need all of our partners – who we have with us here today – to be able to fully address our nation’s aging, crumbling infrastructure
Nick Vaugh, who’s joining us here today from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce really understands this, along with the NJ Chamber of Commerce, who represents businesses of all sizes, invest and create jobs in our state. For more than a hundred years, the U.S. Chamber has been a voice for economic growth and prosperity for American businesses. It’s telling that the Chamber has been very focused on their plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure including expanding financing options, like public-private partnerships, streamlining the permitting process to get projects off the ground, and continuing to develop a skilled workforce to build these projects. The Chamber’s plan will create good jobs for our labor partners, who actually build these malls, roads, bridges, and tunnels – and fix and drive our buses and trains.
Three of our great labor leaders and good friends in Jersey are here — Greg Lalevee, Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, Rick Sabato, President of the Bergen County Building & Construction Trades Council, and Mike Schneider, President of Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council. Thank you all for being here today and for all the important work you and the hardworking men and women of labor all do.
We are coming off the long holiday Memorial Day Weekend and AAA reported that nearly 43 million Americans started off their summers this past weekend — the second-highest travel volume on record since they started tracking holiday travel back to 2000 – the most for any Memorial Day Holiday. This is an increase of 1.5 million people of people taking to our nation’s roads, rail, and runways. And the vast majority of these travelers – 37.6 million – were on our nation’s roadways.
This means that it’s more important than ever that we have an infrastructure system that’s working. And this morning’s event – bringing together the US Chamber of Commerce and our labor leaders — is a testament that there is nothing partisan about fixing our roads, rails, bridges, and tunnels, especially the Gateway Project. Later today, the Problems Solvers Caucus, which I Co-Chair, will be releasing its bipartisan infrastructure strategy to address everything from roads to broadband, and how to cut the red tape and partisan politics to get it moving. I also plan to introduce bipartisan legislation in the coming weeks to force the Administration to rejoin the Gateway board, so we can stop playing political games with a critical project. And why I’ll continue to beat the drum for lower taxes, reinstating SALT, and for adjusting antiquated federal infrastructure and transportation formulas to get more of our federal tax dollars back to Jersey to fix.
We know that infrastructure investment is good for jobs and short- and long-term economic growth.
Not only does infrastructure investment create good-paying jobs for construction workers, engineers, and others directly involved in those projects – and, mind you, we have the best labor trades in America right here – but it also creates long-term growth.
Higher quality infrastructure will help the economy, as a whole, operate more efficiently–cars and trucks will spend less time idling in traffic, commuters and products will be able to get where they need to go more quickly, businesses and schools will have the Internet access they need, and companies and jobs will come here, stay here, and grow here.
Studies show that public investment in infrastructure leads to productivity growth in the private sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a dollar in infrastructure can have as much as a $2.50 impact on our GDP. Talk about a return on investment.
When it comes to infrastructure, our competitors on the international stage know this and are beating us. Europe spends almost double what we currently do as a portion of GDP, and China spends three times as much.
If a company is deciding where to put a new plant, it’s hard to make the case that they should build where they have to deal with the frustrations of our bureaucracy and an out-of-date and under-resourced infrastructure network, not to mention taxes that are far too high.
We cannot have a first-rate economy with second-class infrastructure. For years now, the federal government has stuck it to us only to benefit the Moocher States, leaving behind a mess – so we need to fight to bring more back. New Jersey has the seventh worst roads in the country. And of the 6,746 bridges in our state, more than one-third of them require critical repairs which have not yet been made. Of those that are most heavily traveled, more than a third are here in Bergen County.
Commuters who live in my District have one of the worst commutes in the state. That means that parents don’t get home to see their kids. It also impacts productivity. Given what we pay in taxes, more of the federal dollars going to infrastructure should be coming back here.
But, as I’ve said, this is not just a problem here in North Jersey. These are all issues affecting millions of Americans throughout the country. So, here are a few concrete steps we are taking to get things moving.
First, as I mentioned, later today, the Problem Solvers Caucus – 22 Democrats and 22 Republicans – will be releasing a report with bipartisan policy recommendations to build a 21st century infrastructure network for America. These bipartisan policy options address ways to improve the nation’s highways, roads and bridges, transit and railways, ports and airports, water and sewer systems, energy systems and the power grid, and broadband and communications networks.
With everything going on between the Administration and congressional leadership, we believe that what Americans want right now is to put partisanship aside and work together to solve this urgent national issue. We need to stop the fighting and start solving.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said it best recently, “We’ve always said that infrastructure is something that can only be done on a bipartisan basis. In that spirit, that I urge the members of this committee to find common cause on this national priority—just as business and labor have.” I really take that message to heart.
While this plan lays out a foundation across the country, we also need to be focused on investing in infrastructure right here in North Jersey.
Second, and the Record said in today’s paper: “London Bridge may not be falling, but the aging rail tunnel that connects New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River is in dire condition. Instead of seeing to that condition, though, our top leaders in Washington seem content to play childish games and practice nursery rhymes instead of dealing forthrightly with our decaying infrastructure.”
I agree! No more nursery rhymes. We have to put partisan politics aside and come together – otherwise things will keep on literally crumbling down around us. Our tunnels. Our bridges. Our roads. Our rails.
Our state is second-in-the-nation, percentage-wise, of commuters who rely on public transit. Yet, NJ Transit had more trains breakdowns last year than any other commuter railroad in America, behind only the MBTA system in Boston. And thousands ride on NJ Transit buses, which are out of date and give commuters no guarantee they’ll show up on time. It’s also one of the most expensive systems to ride.
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. After being flooded with 13 million gallons of saltwater during Hurricane Sandy, they are both literally crumbling. On the weekend, they’ve been known to shut one of the two tubes down so that workers can patch them up as best of possible. I’ve seen the tunnels with my own eyes – and yes, they are literally falling apart.
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 number drops to six.
In recent years, major delays have been known to happen every two days.
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. 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.
And these tunnels are 110 years old. They were completed in 1908 and became operational in 1910, when Teddy Roosevelt was the president and the production of Model T began. 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, and families are avoiding our state because they want to get home at night. I hear it all the time from CEOs and from would-be constituents. We are now the number one out-migration state in the country and businesses of all sizes say to me the same thing – it’s because of our high taxes and crumbling infrastructure.
We know that for every dollar we invest in infrastructure, we can generate up to $2.50. 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.
The bottom line: you can’t have a first-rate state with second-class infrastructure.
That’s why we’ve got to fix out roads and bridges and we must get the Gateway project moving. 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.
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Tom Bracken has said that “no infrastructure project is more important than the Gateway Project.”
Well, I couldn’t agree more. We’ve met with the President and his team to plead the case and they seemed to understand the urgency. Our two Senators and our entire Congressional delegation have worked overtime. But, yet, we’re stuck.
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 2017, this Administration informed the Port Authority that Secretary Chao would no longer serve—abandoning the project and our region. This was before they downgraded the project from a top priority to a low-to-medium priority.
That’s why, in the coming weeks, I’ll be introducing the bipartisan “Get On-Board to Fix the Tunnel Act.”
When the Department of Transportation decided in to pull out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation’s board of trustees, it delivered a serious roadblock. Those considering outside investment won’t move ahead. Contractors therefore can’t the job, even though it’s teed-up and ready. I get it. Even though New Jersey and New York are ready to put up half the investment, unless every participating party, including the federal government, no one will start working.
I truly believe this project can’t be a political football; rather, this should be a bipartisan American project. 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 require the Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to appoint a federal representative from the DOT to the Gateway Development Corporation’s Board of Trustees within 30 days. A few weeks ago, Peter King and I also introduced the bipartisan prevent Doomsday legislation to force the Administration to give us their plan on how to handle the economic and community crisis if one of the tunnels goes down.
In short, we need to get this project done. No more delays. Everyone needs to get to the table and work together.
Finally, let me make a quick point that’s also key to getting infrastructure moving, and this is something we touch on in the bipartisan Problem Solvers report today. And I’ve spoken to labor and business, from Greg to Mike to Ricky to our mayors to Joe Sanzari to Senator Paul Sarlo about this. When it comes to building these projects, we need to do everything we can to cut the bureaucracy and red tape that often delays everything from fixing a bridge to repairing a road. It just shouldn’t be that it takes twelve studies and fifty-two reports to get a project moving. Other states are able to address the important environmental impacts and other community issues and get their projects going in a timely manner. We somehow can’t get out of our own way here and it stops projects like fixing roads around here and discourages new investment in the state. We have a top ten list of top projects in the area and I know that, despite new resources for federal projects, it’s costing us in time and fixes. We have to do better.
That’s why I’m laser-focused on working with all partners, like the ones here today, to cut red tape, to get our taxes down by reinstating SALT, and to update our antiquated federal infrastructure and transportation formulas to claw more of our federal tax dollars back to Jersey – instead of continuing to have our tax dollars gush into the Moocher States. These are the federal tax dollars New Jersey is disproportionately paying and should get back for our roads, bridges, and tunnels. Right now, it’s a win-win boondoggle for the Moocher States. Or as I prefer to say, mooch-mooch.
Also, the Department of Transportation needs to use its discretion– be it in TIGER Grants or Bus and Bus Facilities Grants Program– to bring balance to infrastructure and transportation project investment, so that each state gets the right share. In one bus grant program, investment is being pushed to states like Louisiana, based on their population, not on what they pay in taxes. That has to change.
When we bring together both our business community – locally and nationally – and labor – we drive the economy forward.
We’ve got to put aside other partisan stunts and make sure we’re coming together to stop our infrastructure from crumbling further.
I intend to continue working with Democrats, Republicans, and whoever will sit down at the table, to find common-sense solutions. It’s just a good-for-America issue. It’s a good-for-Jersey issue, and it will help us ensure, in the greatest country in the world, that our best days will always be ahead of us.
Thank you all. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.