RPA Testimony at the September 2018 NJ Transit Board Meeting

My name is Nat Bottigheimer, the New Jersey Director of the Regional Plan Association.

For years there has been discussion of the effects on our region of a failure of the Hudson River tunnels. I am here to point out that the past week, and to a certain degree the past year, is what failure looks like. The Hudson Tunnels are already failing. We must build the Gateway Program now.

Failure won’t look like the Genoa bridge collapse, but instead a series of individual events where tracks fail, wires break, and things slowly fall apart and stop working. Taken together, these incidents mean people can’t count on getting to work, travel becomes difficult, and rider safety is increasingly at risk. The economy suffers, people’s health suffers, home values suffer and the environment suffers as people abandon public transit.

Last week’s scary event caught people’s attention, but nearly daily, riders face problems due to deteriorating infrastructure in the tunnels.  To his credit, Governor Murphy is taking a lead on getting Gateway funded and working to move the project forward.

We applaud his recent efforts to commit $600 million to the Gateway project, and to advocate along with city and state officials to get the project funded and moving forward. But we need New Jersey, New York, Amtrak and the federal government to all work together, actively with urgency, to get the tunnel built.

Right now, we don’t have this partnership, we don’t have a commitment Federal government commitment, even though our region generates 10% of the nation’s economic output. And each day our region relies on tunnels you might find in Hogwart’s basement. One specific request: NJ Transit has a role to play in educating the region about the need for, and importance of, new tunnel funding.

You communicate regularly with thousands of frustrated commuters.  Every incident on the Portal Bridge, every disruption inside the dripping walls under the Hudson River – is a golden opportunity to mention how we can build Gateway and get out of this mess, and to point out to the public the federal partner we need.

Please take advantage of this opportunity to mention the need for Federal partnership on the Gateway Program as part of your regular customer communications – don’t neglect this slim bright opportunity lining such a thick, dark cloud.