Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Monday, March 10, 2014
As Sen. Robert Menendez prepares to chair a hearing in Washington this week on Sandy recovery funds, he's getting an earful from constituents.
Friday, January 17, 2014
By Sarah Gonzalez : Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker from New Jersey are among just 16 Democratic Senators supporting a bill that threatens additional sanctions on Iran. The bill, were it to pass, could scuttle a signature foreign policy achievement for President Obama. But experts say passage is not likely.
Friday, March 15, 2013
A federal grand jury in Miami is reportedly investigating New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez over his role in advocating for the business interests of his friend Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor who's a major contributor to Menendez.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
WNYC’s Bob Hennelly discusses the Senate ethics probe into the relationship between New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez's and a major campaign donor. We’ll also look at Sen. Menendez’s campaign finance operation and his broader sphere of influence.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
By Bob Hennelly
A Senate ethics probe into the relationship between Senator Robert Menendez's and a Miami doctor and major campaign donor is bringing additional scrutiny to Senator Menendez's formidable campaign finance operation and his sphere of influence.
Friday, February 15, 2013
By Bob Hennelly
It has been a tough week for U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The senator faces an ethics probe into flights he took to the Dominican Republic on a jet belonging to Doctor Salomon Melgen, a big campaign donor Menendez has gone to bat for with the federal government.
Sunday, December 09, 2012
By Brigid Bergin : Reporter
Local lawmakers say President Obama's $60.4 billion aid package for Sandy relief is a step in the right direction. But they also say New York and New Jersey's storm victims need tax relief.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
By WNYC News
Congress is taking its first hard look at the damage from Sandy amid appeals for tens of billions of dollars in additional disaster assistance to rebuild from one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the Northeast.
Friday, November 16, 2012
By Anna Sale
A day after President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the regional planning for rebuilding after Sandy, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan, laid out his approach to the federal government's long-term effort during a visit to a disaster relief center in New Jersey on Friday.
Friday, January 06, 2012
By Nancy Solomon : Ciao Bambino
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is taking issue with speculation voiced Friday that he is blocking the appointment of a popular judge to the federal appeals court because of a personal vendetta.
Friday, January 06, 2012
By Nancy Solomon : Managing Editor, New Jersey Public Radio
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has remained mum on why he is blocking the appointment of a popular judge backed by President Barack Obama to the federal appeals court – the first time a Democrat has held up an Obama judicial nomination.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
UPDATED: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made two things perfectly clear in his announcement that he won't run for president. "Now is not my time" Christie said, saying there was too much work for him to do in New Jersey to leave now. And this: he wants to "make sure Obama is a one-termer."
That feeling may be mutual.
Late last week, New Jersey and the U.S. DOT settled a year-long tussle over a transit tunnel that was to run under the Hudson River from New Jersey to Manhattan, a project Christie pulled the plug on last year. But bitterness and rancor remain, even as Christie bows out of his chance to take on Obama directly.
(Read down in the post for some choice words U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had for Governor Christie, in an overlooked letter LaHood wrote last April.)
Once upon a time, governors of both political parties did not fight with the federal DOT, which was seen a source of funds for the kinds of public works that make local officials look good -- roads, bridges, tunnels -- big projects that were seen to create jobs, make constituents happy, and, most of all, give politicians all-important ribbon-cutting opportunities.
But in 2010, Christie showed that he was perfectly willing to stop a big project literally in its tracks, to the increasing consternation of the usually amiable LaHood, himself a former Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois.
At issue was a $9 billion transit tunnel under the Hudson River, the largest new transit project in the nation. The tunnel, known as the Access to the Region's Core, or ARC tunnel, was already under construction. It was to have created an extra pathway for NJ Transit trains, which now share a tunnel with Amtrak. That tunnel is at capacity.
A year ago, Christie halted work, so he could review the project's finances. Christie said he feared the project could cost New Jerseyans billions of dollars more than projected. Big infrastructure projects do tend to run over budget -- but project supporters argued that the construction jobs it would create, along with increased business activity and rising property values along the train line, would offset any increases. That, at least, was the logic that has propelled these kinds of projects forward in the past.
When I first began calling around to federal officials and Washington insiders in the fall of 2010, there was widespread disbelief that Christie would pull the plug on the project.
Both because billions of dollars of federal money would not be coming to New Jersey (the federal government, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NJ Transit were each footing a third of the $9 billion bill), and also because no one seemed to think Christie would be willing to generate such animosity amongst federal officials whom he might need help from later.
But he was.
In fact, as Christie was publicly mulling a decision he’d already clearly made, the U.S. DOT was strenuously lobbying him (Ray LaHood himself traveled to Trenton twice to make the case). But publicly, no one from the federal government was talking. There were no red hot pokers from the Obama administration side.
Just how angry Ray LaHood became only began to come out as the tunnel was being buried –- literally, as workers began throwing dirt back into the hole after the project had been killed (a second time, as it happened, since Christie, in response to LaHood's treatises, gave the project a temporary reprieve.)
"Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing," LaHood wrote in an op-ed in the Newark Star Ledger the day after the project died. "Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole."
"Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere."
But even though the project was dead, the bitterness only seemed to escalate. The U.S. DOT demanded that New Jersey pay back $271 million in funds already spent on the project, which Christie refused to do. Characteristically pugnacious, Christie hired the well-connected law and lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, to argue his case in Washington.
Periodically, the DOT would release stats on how interest and penalties were accruing on the project.
Privately, Ray LaHood was getting more and more irate. In a letter (pdf) to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in April, LaHood wrote:
"In February 2010, Governor Christie sat in my office and expressed his full commitment to the completion of the ARC project. In March of 2010, when several news stories called Governor Christie’s commitment to the completion of the ARC project into question, I asked the Governor to restate that commitment in writing. He did so in a letter to me dated April 6, 2010,”
And, then essentially, LaHood called Christie a liar. “The possibility that this project’s cost could run [as high as $12 billion] was first shared with New Jersey Transit as far back as August 2008. Any notion that the potential for cost growth constituted new and emergent information when the Governor made his decision is simply not accurate.”
LaHood held to his position that he would not relent on his demand that Christie pay back the $271 million. By last week, with interest and penalties, the bill had grown to $274 million. But New Jersey’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, had been arguing that New Jersey could pay a lesser amount and at the same time agree to direct $128 million for transit projects in New Jersey.
On Friday the U.S. DOT announced that it had agreed to settle the case. It would accept $95 million from New Jersey, plus the $128 commitment for transit spending.
But Christie tossed into his statement a claim that the $95 million would be offset by $100 million in insurance premium refunds. “First I’m hearing of that,” shot back one federal official when asked.
The implication –- and Christie said as much in his statement –- was that the settlement contains “not one additional dollar of New Jersey taxpayer money.”
But that’s not exactly right. If Christie had gotten his way, and paid zero to the federal government, presumably New Jersey would have been able to pocket the $100 million in insurance premium refunds, not use it to offset a $95 million payment.
Still, though, Christie was able to create the impression he’d boxed his opponent into a corner, again.
That’s a stance we’ll likely see much of from Christie in the next year -- whether he's a candidate for president or not
TN Moving Stories: LAPD Experiments with Electric Bikes, Ray LaHood Wants to Broker Dulles Metrorail Agreement, and Poll Shows Support Stable for NYC Bike Lanes
Friday, May 13, 2011
By Kate Hinds
The LAPD is experimenting with electric bicycles. (Los Angeles Times)
Ray LaHood wants to help resolve differences in the Dulles Airport Metrorail project. (Washington Post)
DC's Metro has given Google Transit access to its data. (Washington Post)
New York City's bike lanes: a new poll says that support for them is stable, even if people think the lanes are unused. (Wall Street Journal)
AC Transit will be raising fares, and service cuts may also be coming within a year. (Contra Costa Times)
More on the osprey nest that's foiling DDOT construction from Marketplace.
The New York Post profiles the man who spent his life savings on the Doomsday ads now running in the subway. Bonus fact: he's a former MTA employee.
Who wants to see Estonians simulate bicycle riding on an airport people mover? You do! (video below:)
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.
In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
-- light rail could be pushing west in NJ (link)
-- speed in NYC, and you might see skeletons (link)
-- the world's most dangerous roads (link)
-- a new Brookings report came out, ranking access to transit (link)
Monday, March 21, 2011
—Sen. Robert Menendez, N..J. Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, on the Brian Lehrer Show.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
As the international world calls for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to step down, some local senators are urging the U.S. to revisit Gadhafi's role in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Monday, February 07, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.
Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.
Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.
And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.
A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.
Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.
An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.
The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.
Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?
What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.
Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?
Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?
And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?
These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Texas Department of Transportation executive director Amadeo Saenz has resigned, just weeks after a hand-picked panel of advisors urged his bosses to make leadership changes at the highest levels. (Dallas Morning News)
A foot of snow KO's NYC's bus system. (WNYC)
Will Atlanta's fractured mass transit system finally become unified? "Local leaders...have asked the Legislature to form a regional mass transit agency to serve as an umbrella over the metro area’s various systems." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Detroit is suffering from a plague of potholes, exacerbated by the weather -- and the budget. Video of a bumpy ride below. (Detroit Free Press)
Ray LaHood blogs about vehicle-to-vehicle communication: "intelligent cars talk to each other wirelessly, warning drivers of potential dangers."
NJ Senator Robert Menendez supports the concept of extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail into Staten Island, but he wants to hear specifics of the plan before committing to full support. (The Jersey Journal)
NJ Gov Christie would rather fight the feds than repay ARC money. (WNYC)
A Bronx-based trucking company paid $450,000 in parking tickets last year; the owner won't participate in the NYC Delivery Solutions parking program. "That program is like paying off the Mafia," he said. "It's saying, 'Here, Mr. Bloomberg, here's some money so I won't clog up the courts.'" (NY Daily News)
The Arizona Republic looks at the future of federal transportation funding, and concludes that proposals such as Mesa's light-rail extension and Tempe's streetcar are vulnerable and could be delayed.
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following:
Congestion pricing is percolating around NYC...again. (link)
The head of the NTSB says that when it comes to safety, we can pay now or pay later. But we will pay. (link)
Houston says howdy to the Nissan Leaf. (link)
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