With optimism that the Biden Administration will push the project forward, the Gateway Development Commission (GDC) recently held their first meeting earlier this month.
The commission’s inaugural meeting on March 5 included the full allotment of seated New Jersey and New York commissioners lawmakers believe marks a new era of cooperation with the federal government on improving the commuting experience for the people of New Jersey.
“The Gateway Program represents a comprehensive, thoughtful approach to a vexing regional problem that must be addressed through collaboration and cooperation,” said New Jersey GDC Commissioner Janine Bauer in a press statement. “In particular, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Commission to deliver new and modernized tracks to go into, through, and out of New York to expand the capacity and reach of the network and improve the quality of the commute for thousands of commuters on a daily basis.”
As part of a multi-year effort to obtain federal funding and advance work on the Gateway Program, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in 2019 creating the GDC that included the appointments of New Jersey’s commissioners Bauer, Balpreet Grewal-Virk, and Jerry Zaro.
“Building on the partnership that has taken root over the past several years, I am confident we can deliver this critically important project for the people of New Jersey, New York and America,” said Zaro. “It’s time to modernize our transportation network and finally build 21st century infrastructure to power our 21st century economy.”
In the last year, New Jersey has secured federal funding for the Portal North Bridge Project, a critical component of the Gateway Program. Additionally, Murphy, along with New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, successfully secured a policy change from the Biden Administration, removing a Trump-era policy that prevented federal loans from being used as local matching funds on major infrastructure projects.
“The first meeting of the Gateway Development Commission with a full board is a significant milestone on our path to rebuilding the most critical components of our regional transportation infrastructure,” said Murphy. “With New Jersey’s final two Commissioners in place, the Commission can now begin to build an organization in the coming months to advance the important work of the Gateway Program.”
Congresswoman Mikie Sherril added “The congressional delegation, the Governor, and our partners across the state have worked together for years to move the Gateway Project forward. With the new administration, we have an incredible opportunity to make sure we get shovels in the ground.”
This first meeting started the process of building the organization of the Commission, as well as noting the progress that the Gateway project partners, including NJ Transit, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Amtrak, continue to make on the Hudson Tunnel Project, which includes the building of new tunnels followed by the complete rehabilitation of the existing North River Tunnels.
“(A) full Gateway Development Corporation board is yet another important milestone in our continued effort to improve rail service for the entire Northeast Corridor and for New Jerseyans traveling between Newark and New York City,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “GDC will be instrumental in moving this critical project forward and finally providing relief and reliability for delay-weary New Jersey commuters.”
Key to Economic Recovery
Members of both the U.S. Senate and House noted a strong, reliable regional public transit system is key to the continued economic prosperity of the region. If one of the tunnels were to collapse, it could cost the regional economy $100 million a day.
“I’ve been down in the tunnels and I’ve seen first-hand that they’re literally crumbling. It’s clear that the Gateway Project is our nation’s most critical infrastructure project and we need to finally get it moving forward,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer. “We know that infrastructure investment can provide one of the best returns on investment, and that commuters depend on these tunnels to get to work, so they can provide for their families.”
As the new Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. said he will work with state and federal officials to get the funding necessary to build the new Hudson River Tunnel.
Gateway on Track
“We need the Portal North Bridge to be constructed as soon as possible to help commuters throughout northern New Jersey,” said Payne.
Seeing the Gateway project completed is a quality of life issue for North Jersey constituents and will help jumpstart the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic according to Rep. Bill Pascrell.
“The Gateway Project is finally getting back on track. The future of our economy and the quality of life for our families depend on our success with Gateway,” said Pascrell. “Our congressional delegation knows this and has come together to carry the burden in Washington. The Garden State leadership will not stop until the shovels are in the ground and Gateway is moving.”