NEWARK, NJ — A quick look at a map shows that most of New Jersey's highly trafficked train lines lead to Newark. Recognizing this fact, Governor Phil Murphy came to Newark to say that he believes federal funds will soon be flowing to the Garden State through President Joe Biden's proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
"Assuming that the infrastructure bill passes, New Jersey will be a disproportionate winner," Murphy told TAPinto Newark at Newark Penn Station as he welcomed new more environmentally-friendly NJ Transit trains. "I can't tell you exactly where it goes and to what projects, but I would say that I'm extremely optimistic about our prospects generally, and specifically on Gateway. We desperately need the two more tunnels built under the Hudson."
Murphy's reference to the long-delayed Gateway Tunnel Project underscores the importance of the plan to the city of Newark, the state of New Jersey, and the entire Northeast Corridor. Originally announced in 2011, the plan calls for the replacement of the frequently-bottlenecked Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, fixing and upgrading the existing tunnel between New Jersey and New York Penn Station, and burrowing a new tunnel under the Hudson River. The proposed cost of the three-pronged project is approximately $13 billion.
While the plan was promoted during President Barack Obama's administration, President Donald Trump stalled the project after pulling back support that he expressed during the 2016 election campaign.
Biden's announcement of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan last week could have particular importance for Newark and all of New Jersey. Included in the plan is $80 billion for rail projects and $85 billion for public transit. The Amtrak stop in Newark sits close to the center of an economically critical corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.
Six highly-used NJ Transit lines traverse through Newark Penn Station and Newark Broad Street Station. Newark is also the hub of the Newark Light Rail System, a key stop in the PATH system, and many NJ Transit bus lines. Overall, Newark is a major center of the NJ Transit system, which before the COVID-19 pandemic provided approximately 270 million passenger trips.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently told the House Transportation Committee that while the Gateway project has great regional significance to New York and New Jersey, there is a "sense of urgency" attached to the project because a major cross-Hudson tunnel failure could have a serious negative impact on the national economy. A look inside the nearly empty trains passing through Newark Penn Station is a testament to COVID-19's impact on public transportation and the entire U.S. economy. As New Jersey looks forward to the projected post-pandemic recovery, Murphy noted how much the state needs federal help.
"The infrastructure bill is a game-changer given New Jersey's density and our location in the Northeast Corridor," Murphy said. "Ultimately, we will get back to some semblance of normal. It won't be overnight, but we'll get there."