The landmark $1.2 trillion infrastructure package President Joe Biden signed on Nov. 15 could direct at least $12.3 billion for New Jersey projects, and perhaps billions of dollars more for the long-stalled Hudson River rail tunnel.
“The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results,” Biden said in remarks at a White House signing ceremony. “We’re taking a monumental step forward to build back better as a nation.”’
New Jersey could get an estimated $6.9 billion for highways and roads, $1.1 billion for bridges, $104 million to boost its electric vehicle infrastructure, and $24.4 million for ferry service, according to a Monday statement from U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s office.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the state’s transportation commissioner, said some of those projects could kick off within the next six months. “It won’t be easy, but we’ve been ready for years,” she said at a Bloomfield news conference.NJ Transit is slated to receive $4.1 billion under the infrastructure bill. The transit agency’s ridership and fare revenue fell significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it almost wholly reliant on relief from both the Trump and Biden administrations. For years, NJ Transit has been using funds meant for long-term upgrades to pay for operating expenses.
“This will bring us into being a first class transit agency; it puts an end to the transit ‘Hunger Games,'” NJ Transit Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett said in Bloomfield.
Amtrak, which owns the Northeast Corridor – one of the nation’s most heavily traveled railways – will get $30 billion for improvements to the line that runs from Washington, D.C. to Boston. The passenger rail operator is also set to receive $11 billion in other grants, which could be used to pay for part of the $12 billion Hudson tunnel. U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, in a statement, said the bill essentially assures that the tunnel is able to finally move forward, and that it will be financed.
“For too long, we’ve talked about having the best economy in the world,” Biden said. ”We’ve talked about asserting American leadership around the world with the best and safest roads, railways, ports, airports. Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches, promises and white papers from experts. But today, we’re finally getting this done.”
The bill narrowly passed in the House of Representatives earlier this month with the support of 13 Republicans, including New Jersey’s two GOP members, Reps. Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew.
But former President Donald Trump criticized Republicans who supported the bill. In a statement before the signing, Trump said he would support a primary challenger against Smith. During his administration, Trump failed to enact an infrastructure program, despite declaring multiple “Infrastructure Weeks” that were supposed to herald progress on such a measure.
A much larger $1.75 trillion social safety net and climate change spending bill had been tied to the so-called hard infrastructure package, but U.S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the goal was to vote on it later this week.
Under the infrastructure bill that was enacted Nov. 15, $100 million is earmarked to expand broadband and internet access or subsidize the connectivity costs for millions of low-income New Jersey residents, according to Menendez’s office.
In addition, $20 million is directed to the state’s airports; $5 billion to clean the state’s Superfund sites, which are the most polluted locations; and $3.5 billion for flood resilience as major storms become more frequent and severe.
At his regular COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 15, Gov. Phil Murphy called the bill a “game-changer” which would particularly benefit New Jersey given its high population density.
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