Whether sitting in the virtual parking lot that Route 80 becomes at “rush” hours, or in a rail car held up because of yet another derailment, New Jersey commuters are finding it more arduous to simply get to work. And it looks like it’s about to become worse.
State GOP policies such as the recent 23 cent increase in the gas tax (vehemently touted by state Sen. Steve Oroho) and budgets that ignored crumbling roadways were bad enough; now the federal government is aiding and abetting.
The most recent blow hit commuters who work in New York City, as Amtrak derailments disrupted train service for more than a week. A major issue with train commutes is that rail tunnels under the Hudson River are 105 years old, and were crumbling well before Hurricane Sandy caused major damage.
A $20 billion Gateway Project was planned to construct new tunnels, repair existing ones and rebuilt the Portal Bridge that spans the Hackensack River. The project was supported by the Obama administration, but Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget cuts funding for transportation, just as for about everything else, in favor of a military buildup and border wall with Mexico.
While Sens. Menendez and Booker are calling for a restoration of funding, the Gateway Development Corporation is looking to the traditional GOP solution for running public services: turn them over to private industry. Under a “public-private partnership” private companies would invest in building the transportation infrastructure in return for part ownership and, according to the Manhattan Institute’s transportation expert Nicole Galinas, “working out a schedule of guaranteed fees from Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and the LIRR for a good 30 to 50 years, at rates much higher than any of these users are accustomed to paying.”
Fasten your seat belts, NJ commuters. The ride is about to get a lot bumpier.