As you know Einstein’s Alley is a member of the Forward NJ Coalition of dozens of organizations bringing attention to the problems of New Jersey’s infrastructure. US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, has called on the Governors of New York and New Jersey to meet with him to talk seriously about issues like the Hudson River crossing tunnels and other transportation problems that cross state lines. Late last month I wrote to Senator Cory Booker of my concern about New Jersey’s infrastructure. Here is the email letter I received in response.
August 13, 2015
Thank you for taking the time to write to me about our nation’s transportation infrastructure. I rely on the input of engaged New Jerseyans like you when making decisions, and I appreciate hearing your thoughts.
New Jersey has more than 39,000 miles of public roads, over 6,500 bridges, and nearly 1,000 miles of rail, connecting every corner of our state to businesses and consumers throughout the region. New Jersey is also home to the most valuable freight corridor in the country , an extensive stretch of Amtrak’s highly-profitable Northeast Corridor, the third largest transit agency in the country, and the highest volume seaport on the East Coast. New Jersey transportation infrastructure is the backbone of the state’s economy and an economic driver for the entire nation.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure upon which New Jersey families and businesses rely is crumbling. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, over 2,300 New Jersey bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. An astounding 66 percent of New Jersey’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This means more than hitting the occasional pothole-the wear and tear on our roads has a direct and significant impact on the pocketbooks of New Jersey families. According to a 2015 report released by the non-profit transportation group TRIP, the average New Jersey driver loses nearly $2,000 per year due to additional vehicle operating costs, lost time, and accidents.
In addition to motorists, businesses rely on efficient, safe infrastructure. New Jersey infrastructure supports the movement of $55 billion in goods between New York City and Philadelphia alone each year, which is the most valuable freight corridor connecting two metropolitan regions in the entire United States. Targeted investment in this corridor, and in other major network hubs, is critical for the economy.
New Jersey’s passenger, commuter, and freight rail network is increasingly in high demand and in desperate need of investment. The Washington – Boston route of the Northeast Corridor is the busiest railroad in the nation with more than 2,200 trains operating each day. In partnership with Amtrak, New Jersey Transit (NJT) operates more than 400 weekday trains on the Northeast Corridor track lines. Many of our bridges and tunnels that support this route are over 100 years old and major portions of the electric power supply system were installed in the 1930s.
With an aging infrastructure and major segments of railroads at or near capacity, the smallest operational problem ripples through the region harming the economy and causing regular delays for New Jersey commuters. For instance, the loss of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor for a single day is estimated to cost the nation $100 million for added highway use and lost productivity. Amtrak and NJT passengers both rely upon the tunnels underneath the Hudson River connecting New Jersey and Manhattan’s Penn Station, which, in part due to the level of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, will have to be substantially shut down and rehabilitated in the coming years. Long-term, substantial federal investment in the Gateway Program, which would build two new trans-Hudson tunnels and replace the 104-year old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, is urgently needed to avoid a serious transportation crisis.
Across the nation, Americans face similar challenges. Over the course of less than a decade, the United States has fallen from 7th to 18th in global rankings of road quality. Nearly two-thirds of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition. Beyond the implications for our economy, this is a serious safety concern. Roadway conditions were a significant factor in approximately 10,000 traffic fatalities last year. The lack of appropriate funding and attention given to transportation infrastructure affects the safety and wellbeing of all Americans.
Every single dollar invested in our infrastructure also has an enormous multiplier effect that stimulates the economy, creates jobs, and improves safety. A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco report estimated that every dollar invested into our national infrastructure increases economic output by at least 2 dollars. Infrastructure projects create jobs up front – and then provide economic dividends for decades. As a member of the two Senate committees that oversee highways, rail, the freight network, and safety, I am fighting for long-term, comprehensive surface transportation legislation that will provide an increase in investment in our nation’s interconnected transportation infrastructure.
On July 30, 2015, I opposed a transportation bill that passed the Senate, because the legislation lacks significant funding for passenger rail and vital priorities, like new Hudson River rail tunnels and the replacement of the Portal Bridge. The bill also includes unacceptable roll backs of critical safety requirements and protections that keep New Jersey families safe on our roads and rail. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress to pass a truly robust, long term funding bill that protects New Jerseyans rather than locking in a long-term chronic underinvestment in our nation’s infrastructure.
Again, thank you for writing to me. I am honored to represent you in the United States Senate, and I value what I hear from New Jerseyans about the issues our state and nation face. Please continue to keep in touch with your thoughts and concerns. For more information on my work in New Jersey and in Washington, please visit my website at booker.senate.gov.
Cory A. Booker
United States Senator