The following editorial by Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) on the need to advance funding for the Gateway Tunnel project was published by the Courier News on March 16, 2018:
New Jersey rail commuters have dealt with crippling delays and detrimental cancellations for far too long. Politicians cannot gamble using commuters as leverage for political gain. It is critical that partisan feuds are not entangled with sensible public policy. This not only inconveniences our commuting workforce but wreaks havoc on our thriving business economy throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
Editorial by Sen. Kip Bateman on the importance of advancing funding for the Gateway Tunnel project. (SenateNJ.com)
Almost a million people utilize the Northeast Corridor in eight states and Washington, D.C. every day. 200,000 daily commuters take the Hudson River tunnels in and out of New Jersey. If railroad service was to be disrupted, the Northeast Corridor Commission estimates an economic loss of $100 million per day. According to the director of Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative 825, a shutdown of a single Hudson tunnel could reduce commuter capacity by 75%.
We have seen the contingency plan if trains were to stop running. A tunnel shutdown would be catastrophic for our workforce, forcing commuters to take already congested roads, light rails, and ferries. When analyzing the Gateway Project, I would rather discuss hypotheticals over hindsight, preparing for what will happen rather than reacting to what did happen. Leaders from all levels of government must work together to prevent an imminent transportation disaster.
Funding Gateway is a multi-state, multi-partisan issue that must surpass the wrath of political vendettas. Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that aging track infrastructure would trigger a commuting “summer of hell.” U.S. Senator Cory Booker claimed that transit issues have us “on the brink of traffic Armageddon.” U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance remarked that the Northeast Corridor is an “economic powerhouse,” benefiting the East Coast economy by $3 trillion annually. Officials on both sides of aisle agree on the importance of federal funding needed to build new tunnels as well as sustaining the current 108-year-old tubes.
The existing two Hudson train tunnels were built during the early 1900s. To put this in perspective with other transportation marvels, the Wilbur Brothers flew the first plane and Henry Ford introduced the Model T during the tunnels’ construction. While we are proud American infrastructure built before World War I has stood the test of time, the two tunnels were not designed for 21st century commuters.
In addition to their aging infrastructure, Superstorm Sandy caused major flood damage to the Hudson tubes. Saltwater infiltration harmed the structural components of both tunnels. The Gateway Project will provide engineers adequate time to properly address the superstorm damage.
We need the federal government to fund their fair share of the Gateway Project not just for New Jerseyans, but for the vitality of business and travel throughout the East Coast. Allowing the status quo to remain is playing poker with people’s livelihoods. Garden State commuters should not be punished for partisan bickering in Washington.
If D.C. lawmakers kick the can down the road, it’s only a matter of time before one or both of the Hudson tunnels fail, causing utter transportation chaos to the most economically powerful region in the world. This will trigger a domino effect up and down the East Coast. Federal funding procrastination will cause the project to become progressively more expensive, increasing costs by $450 million annually.
If we secure fair funding for Gateway, the regional economy will boom. Skilled American laborers will go to work on a long-term transportation marvel. Critical repairs will be remedied in the existing tunnels. The Northeast Corridor will double in capacity across the Hudson, allowing for more workers and travelers to cross to and fro the Garden State. New Jersey’s revenue will considerably benefit from the increase in ridership.
If we wait until one or both tunnels fail, it will be too late. Representatives on the local, state, and federal level need to make a sound and safe train commute the norm for New Jerseyans rather than the exception. We have the opportunity to do that now, and I urge the President to act.
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