SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other state leaders are urging the federal government to help fund a replacement for the Portal Bridge.
It’s in desperate need of repair.
Watch: Gov. Murphy, N.J. Officials On Portal Bridge Funding
It felt like Groundhog Day at Wednesday’s press conference, reported CBSN New York’s Meg Baker: Leaders held the same press conference last year, and still there is no action.
The Portal Bridge was opened in 1910. The more than 100-year-old piece of ancient infrastructure often malfunctions over the Hackensack River, getting stuck in the open position. That causes a major bottleneck on the rails.
New Jersey has already committed $600 million towards the replacement project.
“We’ve put our skin in the game with a more than a fair share of funding,” said Murphy. “All we’ve gotten in return is radio silence… . We all know it is simply a matter of time before the Northeast Corridor grinds to a halt because a cranky Portal Bridge got stuck open again.”
More than 200,000 travelers commute over the bridge each weekday. If the bridge fails, leaders say it would cause a major blow not only to the economy of the Northeast but to the entire country.
The Department of Transportation chose to lower the project on its list of priorities. So what are New Jersey’s representatives doing about it?
“I spoke with the head of the FTA just last week and I heard for the very first time no more excuses. They acknowledged that we have taken every single step that we need to take to get this thing off the ground,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski. “And I’ll tell you one of the things that has made a difference is that we have a new United States Congress… we’re not sitting around and waiting for President Trump to change his mind. We are legislating. We have provided the money.
Amtrak has released a rendering of what the new span would look like, but the governor says the White House needs to cut the red tape so work on the project can start. Murphy called on President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to help.
“President Trump and Secretary Chao, with enormous respect, I ask that we get to work. Let us start the Portal Bridge replacement today. Let us begin to give our people the modern safe and reliable infrastructure that a 21st century economy demands,” Murphy said.
The bridge carries about 450 trains a day on the Northeast Corridor over the Hackensack River.
Amtrak says it gets stuck about 15 percent of the time it opens.
Gateway leaders say prep projects have already begun. If the federal government committed the $1.6 billion needed, workers could start tomorrow.