Governor Phil Murphy and Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Talk Infrastructure in Chicago

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

It’s crumbling, as everyone knows, but infrastructure is so compelling, ultimately “we get to a better place,” Governor Phil Murphy said at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, where he joined a discussion called “Old Town Roads: Reimagining American Infrastructure” under the watchful eye of Obama minder David Axelrod.

Former Ambassador to Germany Murphy sat onstage beside former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a colleague from the Obama years.

Right away, Murphy let the crowd know that he’s in a different stratosphere now.

“I’m going to talk out of both sides of my mouth,” said the New Jersey governor.

“I’m good at that,” he cracked.

He threw an early elbow at former Governor Chris Christie, who left him “a mess” in New Jersey.

LaHood grimly addressed the subject at hand.

“We are like a third world country right now when it comes to infrastructure,” he said. “America is one big pot hole.”

“I can’t disagree with a thing Ray has said,” Murphy affirmed.

Then he added, “We have too many communities in our state where you have heightened levels of level. We still have wooden pipes [in Trenton].

“You need the federal government,” the New Jersey governor added.  “I didn’t support Donald Trump but one area where I predicted we could find common ground was infrastructure. It’s part of the least partisan policy area that I play in.”

LaHood broke it down, and moments later Murphy said, “Amen. I have very little to add to that.”

A former Republican congressman from Illinois, LaHood chatted up the transportation achievements of a single Democratic candidate for president: former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, struggling mostly unsuccessfully to stay visible in the polls.

“They collaborated on fast tracks; tying trains together in Denver,” said LaHood. “Hickenooper said ‘we’re all in this together.'”

Murphy backs junior U.S. Senator Cory Booker for president, who’s polling better than Hickenlooper, but still in single digits.

Laood, in a  mid-western monotone, ate up some time detailing how Denver and D.C., at least, are getting it right. When they opened it up to questions a student stood up and asked, “Is anyone out there getting it right?

Hit with a Green New Deal question, Murphy said, “I live this every day. My nose is pressed against the Jersey glass. My nose has been less pressed against which element of the Green New Deal makes sense or doesn’t make sense.”

The environment is existential, the governor added.

LaHood side-stepped the question, praising Murphy for handling it, then moments later lamented the loss of Building Trades jobs, which might be served by infrastructure projects.

“Amen,” said Murphy, opposed back home by a political organization in his own party that primarily identifies as Building Trades-friendly.

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