By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
The streets of North Camden need resurfacing.
New Jersey’s two U.S. senators and the local congressman were in Camden this afternoon to highlight a $16 million grant for that purpose from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It’s called a TIGER grant, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
“TIGER projects are the best of the best. It’s one of the most competitive programs in the federal government and each year many worthy projects are not awarded a grant,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
The money will go to redesigning and repairing the streets, making them more attractive but also safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Sen. Cory Booker called it an investment.
“This kind of investment of our taxpayer dollars is the best kind of investment because just on an economic sense you invest in infrastructure. When you invest in this kind of investment you can multiply returns better than anybody on Wall Street is getting in terms of economic growth and job creation,” he said.
Congressman Donald Norcross lives in Camden and is eager to see these cobblestones replaced.
“The very cobblestones that you’re standing on were brought over in sailing ships. Sailing ships. That shows the need that not only Camden has but our country has,” he said.
Mayor Dana Redd said students at Rutgers-Camden deserve safer walking and cycling paths because right now they have to dodge traffic.
“Our project components are North Camden infrastructure improvements and the Cooper Street traffic improvements and in total the project will overhaul more than two miles of Camden roadways incorporating green and complete street components wherever possible,” she said.
The city council president sees another benefit.
“Infrastructure means jobs. Union jobs for our local members of the construction unions, opens up opportunities, clears up congestion,” said Francisco “Frank” Moran.
Norcross, Booker and Menendez all took a train to Washington this afternoon for the reconvening of Congress after the summer recess. They have votes there tonight. We asked each what the top issues are facing Congress.
Norcross said the federal budget and the Zika virus.
“Continuing resolution to make sure the government continues to do what they are supposed to. Always defend our country — make sure Homeland Security is fully funded. We have to deal with Zika which is still a very serious issue and needs to be fully funded,” he said.
For Booker it’s the Supreme Court and criminal justice reform.
“We still have a Supreme Court which is about to go back into a very important part of their session. It’s lacking one member. That is literally one branch of government undermining the smooth functioning of another,” he said.
Menendez too said the federal budget and Zika.
“I cannot understand — and it comes close to home because my daughter is pregnant with her first child, she lives in Miami, she’s a journalist, she lives in Miami — and I cannot understand not just my daughter but anybody else’s daughter or anybody else’s wife, why it is that the federal government, when we are talk about protecting our citizens, we protect them from ISIS, we also need to protect them from disease. And we’ve lost critical time,” he said.
But today was about Camden and cobblestones.