(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez just sent out a press release announcing federal funds to replace a balky rail bridge that commonly causes delays for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. The upgrade is considered crucial to bringing the next generation of high-speed rail to the northeast corridor. A new bridge at the site is also integral to plans for the Gateway Project, a proposed two-track rail tunnel under the Hudson. The release, which contains one of Senator Lautenberg's patented references to unnamed Republican operatives out to thwart him, is below.
Federal Recovery Act Funding Secured for Critical Infrastructure Project
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced that New Jersey Transit will be awarded $38.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to begin replacing the 100-year old Portal Bridge that crosses the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus. With the funding now being provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), work could begin shortly.
“The Portal Bridge is a major chokepoint for thousands of commuters every day and an obstacle in the way of our efforts to improve regional rail transportation,” stated said Lautenberg, who as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee helped write the Recovery Act. “This federal funding will help replace the bridge so that train riders have a shorter, safer and more reliable commute every day. Replacing the bridge will also prepare our regional infrastructure for new high-speed rail opportunities that will improve the economy and get cars off the road. I am pleased to see the Recovery Act again deliver funding for a New Jersey project that will create jobs and benefit our state. This funding is a good start on a great project and I will continue fighting against Republican attempts to shortchange infrastructure projects like the Portal Bridge.”
“This step is a win for New Jersey commuters and a win for New Jersey jobs,” said Menendez. “Not only are we going to be helping families and workers get around the state faster and easier, but we are going to create thousands of good-paying jobs. It’s exactly the kind of economic shot in the arm New Jersey needs.”
As this project moves forward, Lautenberg and Menendez are fighting to increase infrastructure investment while House Republicans are attempting to strip away funding for transportation infrastructure, including some Recovery Act projects.
The new Portal Bridge is critical to improving the reliability of Amtrak and NJ Transit trains and reducing wait times for commuters. The Portal Bridge is a chokepoint on the Northeast Corridor and its replacement is critical to improving reliability of Amtrak and NJ Transit trains.
Replacing the bridge is also an important step in advancing Amtrak's proposal to build two new rail tunnels from New Jersey to New York City called the “Gateway Project.”
Approximately 420 passenger trains use the Portal Bridge each weekday. The current bridge, however, is more than 100 years old and can no longer meet the demand of today’s commuters or rail traffic on the Northeast Corridor. The funding would help replace the current two-track bridge.
In August 2009, Lautenberg and Menendez wrote Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood supporting New Jersey’s application to replace the Portal Bridge.