Jerry Zaro, chairman of the nonprofit Gateway Program Development Corp., made the case Monday to replace the 108-year-old Hudson River rail tunnels that connect New Jersey and New York City and the 108-year-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey.
Zaro gave a keynote address at the Newark Regional Business Partnership at an event to honor leaders in transportation. Zaro pleaded for federal funding.
“We have complied with all federal requirements for the funding,” Zaro said. “The local partners have collectively committed more than $6 billion of our local share. … Gateway sits as a political pawn in Washington and they are holding up our record of decision on our environmental impact study. … We are shovel-ready.”
Gateway is leading the planning of the $20 billion infrastructure project. The Portal Bridge spans the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny, and opens to allow ships to pass on the river. The bridge regularly becomes stuck, which halts trains from Boston to Washington, D.C.
More than 200,000 people travel through the tunnels and across the bridge each day.
“They have been great assets but they are old and failing and are putting 20 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product at risk,” Zaro, a lawyer at Sills Cummis & Gross, who focuses on banking, finance, real estate, corporate and government relations, said. “Our trains are forced to play transit roulette. … We have an employee with a sledgehammer who literally knocks the bridge back into place. You do not need to be a rail expert to know this is unacceptable in 2019. Failure of the rail bridge would lead to catastrophe.”
“President Trump has refused to fund Gateway,” Zaro said. “You hear ‘Make America great again.’ I think America is already great. I ask what better place to embark on that road to greatness than right here, right now, to do the right thing: build America’s most critically needed infrastructure.”
Barbara E. Kauffman, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Newark Regional Business Partnership, equated transportation as key to economic growth in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Chip Hallock, president and chief executive officer of the NRBP, cited a report that shows Newark is experiencing business growth and expansion.
“The nation’s eyes are focused on this growth,” Hallock said.
And the award goes to …
Each year, the NRBP and its Transportation Council celebrate National Transportation Week by honoring regional industry leaders. For 2019, the Transportation Leadership Awards were presented to:
Martha Bogle, chief of design at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and a project engineer.
Eric Daleo, a lawyer and assistant director of capital planning at New Jersey Transit. “We are recovering from [Hurricane Sandy] and meeting positive train control deadlines,” Daleo said.
Zenobia Fields, a deputy director of government and community relations at the New Jersey Department of Transportation. “It is a privilege to wake up every day and enjoy the work you do,” Fields said.
Linda Mosch, a senior director of light rail expansion projects at New Jersey Transit. She received an award for her work including highway design and traffic signal design.
Nicole Minutoli, a lawyer and director at the Division of Multimodal Services at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, litigated matters pertaining to airport safety, resulting in favorable precedents regarding public safety and the financial safety of the industry.
Dennis Stabile, a deputy director of the tunnels, bridges and terminals at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Lou Venech, a general manager of regional transportation and policy development at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Mark Pagliettini, assistant director of World Trade Center Construction at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, helped plan the raising of the Bayonne Bridge.