Rep. Tom Malinowski and Sen. Bob Menendez welcomed the Biden Administration rollback of a Trump-era policy delaying key transit infrastructure projects in New Jersey.
Under the Trump Administration guidance since June 2018, federal loans taken out by local project partners are no longer counted as part of the local share for Capital Investment Grant (CIG) projects. Opponents of the move said the guidance made it harder for states to finance their portions of transit infrastructure improvements, such as the Hudson Tunnel Project.
On Feb. 16, Acting Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator, Nuria I. Fernandez, issued a “Dear Colleague” letter officially rescinding this Trump Administration policy.
Malinowski stated the misguided policy of the U.S. Department of Transportation was standing in the way of further advancing the tunnel portion of the Gateway project.
“The very first bill I introduced as a member of Congress sought to remove this unfair and unnecessary financing barrier to the Gateway project,” said Malinowski in a press statement Feb. 16.
Malinowski’s Transportation Funding Fairness Act allows New Jersey and other states to count federal loans as part of their share of jointly funded transportation projects. Through oversight and appropriations, Malinowski has worked to lead the multi-year effort calling on FTA to enact this policy change.
“I commend Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg and FTA leadership for heeding my call, and look forward to continuing to work closely with the Biden Administration to get the Hudson River tunnel done,” said Malinowski.
For Sen. Menendez, the move was seen as Buttigieg honoring his pledges to support for the Gateway project and ending the political interference that has slowed the project.
“The Trump Administration pulled this ridiculous policy out of thin air in order to delay and derail the Gateway Project,” said Menendez. “Much like a mortgage loan to buy a house, federal loans that must be repaid by states and other local entities applying for federal transportation grants have long been considered as part of the local funding match.”
Menendez stated the move by the Biden Administration removes one of the many obstacles the previous administration deployed to stall the Gateway Project, which includes replacing the 110-year-old Portal North Bridge and construction of a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.
“I repeatedly called on the previous administration to reverse course, but they insisted on continuing to ignore the law,” said the Senator. “The Biden Administration was right to undo Trump’s ill-conceived policy and restore sanity and common sense to the FTA.”
The new guidance continue the momentum the Gateway project has received in recent months. Besides the election of President Joe Biden, who has expressed support to New Jersey officials for the project, an over $800 million federal Full Funding Grant Agreement was reached in the final days of the Trump Administration allowing construction of a new Portal Bridge to move forward after four years of delays.
Portal North Bridge
The construction of the Portal North Bridge is considered a key component of the Gateway Project, which includes modernizing rail infrastructure between Newark and New York Penn Stations. Additionally, it includes construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel and rehabilitating the existing century-old tubes.
With the funding, improvements will be made to the 110-year-old rail span, which acts at the linchpin to the Northeast Corridor. NJ Transit, with the assistance of Amtrak, will construct, operate, and maintain a new Portal North Bridge and 2.44 miles of related railroad infrastructure.
Murphy Weighs In
The project will address critical issues that have long plagued the Portal Bridge. Supporters noted the new bridge will improve reliability, increase train speeds, and remove conflicts with maritime traffic.
“Getting the Gateway Program done is of critical importance to our economic future and to the lives of the thousands of commuters who deserve safe and modern infrastructure,” added Gov. Phil Murphy at his press briefing Feb. 17.
“For four long years, President Trump let the Hudson Tunnel Project languish and twist in the political wind. Now, under President Biden, we can make up for lost time and get this vital program—and the thousands of jobs it will produce—back on track.”