U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-CD5) and Assemblywoman Lisa Swain (D-LD38) met at the Main Line train station in Glen Rock Tuesday where Gottheimer touted a historic infrastructure investment that will impact New Jersey commuters. He used the opportunity to tout his House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan association of Republicans and Democrats, which endorsed the infrastructure package.
Gottheimer was confident that the infrastructure bill, the largest such bill since President Eisenhower’s federal highway system project, would find sufficient bipartisan support in the legislature and land on President Biden’s desk. His goal was that it should be signed before the August recess, but he acknowledged that the reconciliation process might take longer.
According to Gottheimer, New Jersey’s mass transit trains have been ranked as dead last in the United States. He said that more than a fifth of the trains and cars have exceeded their service life and that commuting times have risen nearly 9% in the last decade. As any New Jersey driver can attest when going through an underpass, a third of New Jersey’s bridges are in need of repair, with 500 in the Garden State deemed “deficient.” Gottheimer also lamented that the Gateway Project has been stalled for years and that 3,995 miles of NJ highways are in a bad state.
It would be hard to imagine that, even in such polarized and divided times, the Left and Right would disagree as to the horrendous state of New Jersey’s roads and highways.
“On average, each New Jersey driver pays $713 per year in costs and repairs to their vehicles, due to driving on damaged roads,” Gottheimer asserted.
With his speech occasionally interrupted by the train station’s automated schedule over the loudspeaker, Gottheimer, standing alongside the Glen Rock rails, said, “Even before the pandemic, because of outdated technology and train cars and tracks in need of repair, NJ Transit often couldn’t deliver, and far too often, commuters sat delayed, watching the minutes go by getting to work or getting home. Thankfully, in Washington, there is a bipartisan infrastructure deal, with bicameral support, on the table now, with the backing of the White House, which includes critical investment in New Jersey’s transit system, from the rails and train cars to the Gateway Tunnel. And it’s time to bring it up for a standalone vote, without any delays.”
Gottheimer was emphatic as to the bipartisan nature of the infrastructure framework bill. He said that New Jersey would benefit from a host of features, such as $312 billion for transportation infrastructure and $110 billion for roads and bridges. Additionally, the bill provides for billions in both freight as well as passenger rail travel.
While the crux and theme of Gottheimer’s conference was on transit, he made a point of noting that $65 billion was allocated for broadband internet. While Glen Rock is one of Gottheimer’s more developed constituencies, other, more rural areas such as Sussex county, have yet to benefit from a fully developed broadband network.
The bill “will help our economy in the short and long-term, and it will help it operate more efficiently. Studies even show that public investment in infrastructure also leads to productivity growth in the private sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a single dollar in infrastructure can have as much as a $2.50 impact on our GDP. That’s a real return on investment.”
From a political perspective, the infrastructure bill is an enormous spending spree. But generally speaking, if taxpayers see a return on their expenditures, they are content if the benefits are tangible. Infrastructure is a very “safe” investment whether one has an R or a D after his or her name.
“We know our infrastructure here in New Jersey is crumbling,” Gottheimer said, pointing out that a fifth of the American GDP travels on New Jersey trains and through century-plus-old tunnels each day.
The congressman called for “leadership in Washington to bring this bipartisan package to a vote in Congress” as soon as possible. Stressing yet again the bipartisanship which is so instrumental for the bill’s passage—especially in the US Senate—he said, “By working together, from both sides of the aisle, here in Jersey and in Washington, I believe we can get this done, in the greatest country in the world, so that our best days will always be ahead of us.”
For Gottheimer, who is a Democrat in a generally conservative district, this bill can prove to strengthen his bipartisan credentials even further. Suburban Bergen county commuters or rural Warren county drivers alike would find little to complain about when seeing potholes filled or bridges reinforced and such approaches are vital for a congressman looking to bridge a long and diverse district such as CD 5.