ReNew Jersey Business Summit
The infusion of an estimated $8 billion for New Jersey’s highways, roads and bridges as part of the bipartisan federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act means a chance to significantly improve the “health, safety and quality of life” of the state’s residents, according to Gary Dahms, who will be on a panel focusing on Infrastructure and Environment.
Dahms, CEO of T&M Associates, a national consulting, environmental, engineering, technical services and construction management company, suggested that “Broader regional projects like the long-stalled Gateway Program should be prioritized, since they can bring about immediate, positive impacts, like construction jobs, and more work for design professionals, as well as long-term improvements in health and safety, and quality of life, and the opportunity for businesses to continue to expand.”
According to an analysis by U.S. Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, the Gateway project alone may be able to tap into some $41 billion of additional appropriations earmarked for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor improvements. “Improvements to Gateway, and the state’s bridges, sewers, and power transmission lines will mean short-term and long-term improvements that benefit the entire supply chain, which in turn has national impacts,” according to Dahms. “We’ve seen, for example, a huge influx of goods flowing into the Port of New Jersey following the completion of the enhancements to the Bayonne Bridge, so it makes sense to expand our intermodal capabilities to further speed the movement and distribution of those goods.”
While he’s encouraged by the potential for enhancement and expansion of the state’s infrastructure, Dahms cautioned that politicians need to be sensitive to tax and regulatory issues that can crimp business activity. “T&M Associates is a member of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and I’m confident that the organization will continue to advocate for a measured approach to the state’s development,” he said. “We recognize the need to continue to protect the environment and ensure that the needs of the state’s residents are met, but we also need to find the right balance and not put obstacles in the path of businesses as they work to improve our infrastructure. In the long run, everyone can benefit from these improvements, and we’re pleased to be part of the process.”
Projects to address climate change and environmental justice top the list of “must do” items for Dennis Toft, a member at the law firm Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, and chair of its Environmental Law Group. “We need to improve our mass transportation and our roadways, which will lead to reduced emissions from cars,” he said. “We also need to address resiliency, restoring areas damaged by storms, while we elevate and build in flood protection. At the same time, New Jersey should address issues like lead pipes, and sewer overflows — which often occur in locations with under-served populations.”
As these initiatives are implemented, he recognizes that new rules, regulations and taxes may hinder business activity. “There are no fast answers for complex projects, but there needs to be a balance,” Toft noted. “So if a developer wants to build near a body of water, we have to ensure that won’t cause flooding for adjacent areas in the future. The state needs to help preserve property and life, while addressing overlapping and conflicting rules. The DEP already has permit coordination to help businesses understand new rules, and I think that events like this Chamber summit are very important.
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