TRANSPORTATION

Commuters to politicians on Gateway Program: Get it done!

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Marlboro commuter Jason Silverstein says he heard announcements about rail delays first thing Friday morning on the train to Newark.

“I have friends that on Friday nights don’t get home to go out with their families. It’s just something that’s way out of control and long overdue and everybody just hopes that the politicians can make it happen and get it fixed this time,” said Silverstein.

The talk was held Thursday. The White House invited New Jersey and New York’s governors and members of Congress for a chat about the Gateway Program; nine projects that include two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River and replacing the century-old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. All for a multi-billion-dollar price tag that gets bigger every year.

The White House called the meeting “productive.” Congressman Frank Pallone says the invitation was encouraging.

“Well, I thought it was a positive meeting because we got an opportunity to lay out for the president what needed to be done about the Gateway Tunnel and also the urgency of it,” he said.

“Well, I think it’s a step in the right direction for the region and for the country. This needs to happen,” said Janna Chernetz, New Jersey Senior Policy Director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Commuters are anxious to see improvements made to the state’s transportation infrastructure. Their simple message to politicians? Get it done!

Chernetz says failure of the existing 110-year-old tunnels is imminent and she’s looking for the president’s commitment to a plan, money and getting it done.

“Everybody should know how important this is. It’s amazing that we have to continue to discuss the importance of this project. We’ve been through this with the ARC Tunnel and now we’re back to Gateway. The fact that we’re still having to discuss the importance does cause a little bit of alarm for me,” said Chernetz.

Transportation advocates say the need for the Gateway Program is more than apparent and they believe the Trump administration knows that. But, they ask, why the holdup, the stalling?

“No, no, I don’t think so. It was quite clear that he thought that this was very important for commuters between New York and New Jersey and also for the Amtrak system itself,” said Pallone.

It’s clear the representatives of the two states got no promises. But, Rep. Leonard Lance says, “This administration has indicated that infrastructure investment will be a priority and I am hopeful that [the] meeting and information will persuade President Trump to consider Gateway to be a national priority.”

Sen. Cory Booker says the region’s economy and jobs are at stake.

“President Trump has made plenty of promises on infrastructure, which so far have fallen flat,” said the Senator, “It’s time for him to step up and commit to real investment in Gateway.”

According to the White House, “The President and his Administration remain committed to creating a robust infrastructure package that will modernize and transform our nation’s infrastructure.”

“So, fund it!” said Chernetz.

“We’re kind of tired of hearing all the people in Washington saying, especially the president, they’re going to do infrastructure. This is an opportunity to really get something done here,” said Silverstein.