By Christie Duffy
Painting traffic lanes and preparing traffic signals, construction crews put the finishing touches on a $54 million project.
The 14th Street Viaduct will open for traffic at rush hour tonight, replacing the 100-year-old span that stood before it — connecting Union City and the Heights of Jersey City to Hoboken, Weehawken and the Lincoln Tunnel down below.
It’s a project our U.S. senators say they’ll be talking to their Republican colleagues about in the coming weeks.
“This is a perfect picture right here of exactly what I want to tell our colleagues in Washington D.C.,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
Federal lawmakers are in the midst of a battle over how to replenish the fund that pays for highway and transit programs. A Hudson County spokesman says this particular project did not receive funding from the Highway Trust Fund. But officials say without a funding solution, thousands of jobs and transportation projects could be at stake as early as August.
“We are almost at the point that the Highway Trust Funds, the federal Highway Trust Funds, will dry up. They will be bankrupt,” Sen. Robert Menendez said.
“We know clearly that we have a crisis in America in infrastructure. We know clearly that projects like this are far too rare,” Booker said.
The state Department of Transportation says all projects for now will continue as planned.
But on a national level, America’s infrastructure gets a D+ from the American Society of Engineers.
And right here in New Jersey, the society says over 25 percent of bridges right here in New Jersey are functionally obsolete. While two-thirds, 66 percent, of our roads are graded as poor or in mediocre condition.
Driving on roadways in need of repair costs you money. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates we each pay about $600 per year here in New Jersey for repairs to our vehicles needed after driving on faulty roads.
“Our Republican colleagues feel that federal involvement in mass transit and highway infrastructure is not appropriate. I think they are wrong,” Menendez said.
In the past, New Jersey’s Republican congressmen were divided over whether to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. In 2008, two out of six New Jersey Republicans — Congressmen Scott Garrett and Rodney Frelinghuysen — both voted no.
Congressman Garrett said this today: “I find it quite sad that Sens. Booker and Menendez are still fighting for these failed policies. The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is broke, and rather than working on ways to reform the system, our senators continue to advocate for putting the American people on the hook for more bailouts.”
Proposals have been put forward in Congress to raise the gas tax or to increase funding by making cuts to other government programs, but so far, reports say, nothing has gained traction.