A Day for Infrastructure in New Jersey

Booker, Sires, Menendez

Garden State commuters have spent years dealing with New Jersey Transit train delays and driving over endless potholes on the state’s roadways. 

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker say New Jersey residents will soon start to notice their commuting lives improve under  the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law Monday by President Joe Biden.

Standing in front of the Bloomfield Rail Station, the two Democratic Senators, along with several Essex County politicians, explained what the nation and New Jersey residents can expect from what they call the largest infrastructure investment in a generation. 

“We will unleash transformative new investments in everything, from roads and railways to drinking water to electric vehicles and so much more,” Menendez said.

Menendez says the new law provides more than $90 billion for public transit and $66 billion for passenger rail. New Jersey alone, Menendez added, stands to get more than $12 billion in guaranteed transportation and transit funding over the next five years. New Jersey Transit would have access to billions of dollars for upgrades.

There’s also $110 billion set aside in the new law to repair and modernize roadways. New Jersey is expected to receive $8 billion to improve highways and outdated bridges. More than $55 billion will be dedicated to clean water projects, including $15 billion for replacing lead pipes and water lines throughout the Garden State and the country. 

“New Jersey residents can expect to see billions of dollars for our state’s infrastructure, from repairing roads and bridges, to replacing lead pipes and cleaning Superfund Sites and advancing the Gateway Project,” Senator Booker said. “In addition to funding critical infrastructure projects, these investments will also enhance our nation’s competitiveness and position in our economy for continued growth by putting more Americans to work.”

“This infrastructure bill means a lot to Essex County,”  Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Jr., points out. “This county is definitely the transportation hub. We are definitely, the crossroads. We have everything right here. We have the roads, we have the bridges. Right here in Essex County, we have over 400 miles of roadway here, and we have over 500 bridges here, and there’s about seven to eight that need repair quickly, and we’re ready to go hit the ground as soon as they give us the money.”

In addition, Menendez said $30 billion dollars is set aside for the Northeast Corridor, making it almost certain the Gateway Tunnel Project will finally be completed. Menendez then took swipes at former Governor Chris Christie and former President Donald Trump. 

“During the Trump administration, the President’s political vendetta against our state and our region led to needless delays and funding obstacles,” Menendez said. “They made up entire new policies with no foundation in law just to try and derail the most important infrastructure project in the entire country. Who can forget back in 2010 when former Governor Christie canceled the Hudson Tunnel Projects when the Federal Government had already committed?”

Menendez didn’t stop there. 

“I’ve always believed in the saying that there are no Republican bridges or Democratic roads,” Menendez said. “I will say however this, the last President spent four years talking about a big game on infrastructure, but that’s all it was – talk. At the end of the day, President Trump cared more about building silly walls than sturdier bridges and 21st Century tunnels. It took a Democratic President  named Joe Biden and a Democratic House and Senate to get the job done, and now the American workers are going to get the job done, and when it comes to building back better there is no shortage of work to do.”

Republican New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio says this wasn’t a good time for Senator Menendez to take jabs at Republicans. 

“If it wasn’t for Republicans, that bill would have gone nowhere,” Pennacchio said. “You had quite a bit of Republicans in the Senate, and 13 Republicans in the house that allowed for the bill to go through. Good, bad or indifferent, it is not what Senator Melendez is saying. It was actually a Democrat who held it up, including AOC and other Liberal members.”

As for the Gateway Project, Pennacchio added, “It wasn’t good for New Jersey, any cost overruns were all on the backs of New Jersey residents. Where have you ever built this magnitude of infrastructure where there are no cost overruns?” 

The Bipartisan act will provide billions of dollars to other infrastructure projects, including $1.75 billion to improve accessibility at rail stations for those who are disabled. New Jersey Transit could use some of that money. The agency has proposed upgrades at the Bloomfield Rail Station so that disabled people can have better access to the station. 

In addition, the infrastructure investment allocates $5 billion to  clean Superfund and Brownfield sites. New Jersey happens to have more of these sites than any other state in the nation. There’s also $65 billion in the new law for modernizing electric grids and building electric charging stations, and $65 billion for broadband. During the pandemic, many people living in New Jersey’s inner cities and rural areas had a difficult time with the internet.  

“You saw it during the pandemic when we had to stay home,” Menendez said, “not everybody had access to broadband, not every child had the ability to be able to connect with their classroom, not every person who had to work had that ability.”

There’s also $50 billion in the new law for flood preparedness and other disasters. 

“Just about eight weeks ago, this whole area was under water because of Hurricane Ida,” said Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, referring to the rail station. “This flood resiliency money is going to be a huge benefit. Right now, Bloomfield has undertaken a study, a storm management water study, where we are going to recognize and realize how flood waters pour into the township.” 

The Senators and New Jersey Transit Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said there will be an equitable distribution of the money so underserved communities receive their fair share. 

“There is no shortage of roadway, bridge, and transit infrastructure needs in New Jersey, and we look forward to putting President Biden’s historic federal investment to work to continue improving mobility for all our state’s residents,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. 

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