New Jersey’s transit problems became national news after a rash of delays stranded commuters on platforms throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. It has been clear for years now that New Jersey’s infrastructure is in dire need of repairs. Unfortunately Governor Christie and his political allies, including 21st District representatives Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz, have failed to act on this problem, leading us to what we experienced last week. We cannot wait indefinitely to address our crumbling infrastructure.

The tunnels that run under the Hudson River into New York City are critical to our state’s economy. Thousands of New Jerseyans use them to commute to work in New York every day. Unfortunately, the tunnels are over 100 years old and badly in need of repair. Damage from Hurricane Sandy has only made the need for repair more urgent. The tunnels could need to be shut down within 20 years if they are not upgraded.

New Jersey had an opportunity to expand these tunnels with the Access to the Region’s Core project, which would have doubled the number of tunnels running under the Hudson. Unfortunately, Governor Christie made the unilateral decision to cancel the project to appease Tea Partiers. This politically motivated decision came to the detriment of our state.

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Governor Christie’s attempts to blame Amtrak exclusively for the delays are disingenuous. While there are certainly issues with Amtrak, the governor’s cancellation of the project to address our infrastructure problems is the primary cause of the current delays. Maintenance of infrastructure is a joint federal/state responsibility, and expecting Amtrak to overcome years of failure on the part of New Jersey to invest in infrastructure is wrong.  

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recently called the failure of New Jersey and New York to repair the Hudson tunnels “almost criminal.” I am in agreement. The tunnels will likely need to be shut down within 20 years if they are not repaired, and our representatives are currently doing nothing to address that looming crisis. Those tunnels carry thousands of people from New Jersey into New York every single day. Commuters rely on the tunnels to allow them to make a living. Governor Christie now acts as if he desperately wants to fix the tunnels, but his past actions expose the truth of his deliberately sabotaging the project. He should be meeting with the Department of Transportation right now to put together a plan for upgrading the tunnels. Instead he’s off in New Hampshire campaigning for president.

Solving our transit woes isn’t a partisan issue and it is going to need a bipartisan solution. I believe Republicans and Democrats can come together to provide better funding for road, bridge, and tunnel repairs. New Jersey has the lowest gas tax in the country. I understand no one wants to pay more in taxes, but fixing our infrastructure is a safety issue that affects millions of people in New Jersey. It also affects our property values and state economy. We can all afford to pay a little more to be safer. We can work with the federal government and the state of New York to repair the tunnels running under the Hudson River. This is all within our reach if our leaders will worry more about their constituents than appeasing their political bases or scoring political points.

-Jill LaZare is a candidate for New Jersey State Assembly in District 21.