New Jersey leaders push for funding for new rail bridge, tunnel

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Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker held a meeting Monday to call on the federal government to provide funding to replace the state’s aging rail infrastructure.

New Jersey’s Portal Bridge is more than a century old, and officials say that it halts train traffic around the state due to its regular malfunctions.

New Jersey Transit officials say that they hope that the federal government will help pay for the bridge’s replacement as part of the Gateway Project. NJ Transit was granted a six-month extension by the Federal Transit Administration to supply necessary information to win the funding.

Gov. Murphy said that the extension was a “minor victory” in the Gateway funding battle.

“We were challenged to put more skin in the game. We put together a very compelling package to show that skin,” Murphy said.

A major component of the Gateway Project is new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, connecting New York and New Jersey. This would allow repairs to be made to the existing tunnel.

But the Department of Transportation under the Trump administration said that it will not honor former President Barack Obama’s promises to pay for half of the project.

“This tunnel is going to be built one of two ways,” Murphy said. “One is because we planned for it, we did it methodically. We did it the right way. Or, we’re going to get some kind of disaster and we’ll have no choice.”

Murphy and Booker also said that building the new tunnels at what they called the nation’s busiest rail crossing should be a bipartisan effort. But they say that President Donald Trump’s apparent dislike of the project is making the project challenging.

“We’re just going to have to keep fighting for every inch of ground, unfortunately we’ve got presidential headwinds,” Booker said. “But so far thanks to Republicans in the House, we’re going to get this project moving forward because this isn’t a partisan issue.”

Both the House and Senate appropriations committees included some funding for the Gateway Project in their spending bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

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