Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill Pushes Gateway Project at Amtrak Summer Track Work Info Session

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Upcoming Amtrak track work into Penn Station this summer, was the focus of an informational session in Montclair held at the Buzz Aldrin Middle School auditorium on Wednesday, May 29. The upgrades are part of “The Gateway Program,” a comprehensive rail investment project that aims to improve current services but will cause temporary service adjustments over the course of the next three to four months for commuters.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett, along with other NJ transit officials, provided details on this summer’s commute into Manhattan. Several dozen attendees learned more about the plans for the addition of a two-track Hudson River rail tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan and the ultimate replacement of the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. Fares will also be adjusted to offset the cost of PATH or NY Waterway ferry options.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, with NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett, discussed details on this summer’s NJ Transit schedule changes into Manhattan for the Amtrack infrastructure renewal project at Penn Station.

NJ Transit plans to implement service changes weekdays only, starting Monday, June 17 through Friday, September 6. The service will temporarily divert select Midtown Direct rail service on the Montclair-Boonton Line and one North Jersey Coast Line train to Hoboken, in order to accommodate Amtrak repair work that will take two tracks at Penn Station out of service. Sherrill has been in support of the proposal, estimated at $30 billion once completed. The aim is to help ease delays on the Northeast Corridor, considered one of the most heavily used passenger rail lines in the nation.

During the presentation, Sherrill discussed the decaying Portal Bridge, a two-track, moveable swing-span railroad bridge over the Hackensack River in Kearny and Secaucus, as having been “an incredible marvel of engineering,” but was now considerably damaged by SuperStorm Sandy, affecting the quality of transit for commuters in those tunnels. The bridge was opened in 1910 and built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in conjunction with service to Penn Station.

Replacement of the bridge lies in the first phase of the Gateway Project. However, funding for the project is currently stalled due to funding disputes between state and federal governments. The estimated cost for replacing the bridge is at $1.5 billion. Only New York, New Jersey, NJ Transit and Amtrak are in agreement to contribute funding, while the Trump Administration has refused to provide any funding for the project, according to reports. Sherrill originally co-sponsored the Transportation Funding Fairness Act, a bill that would allow states to decide how to obligate federal loans for projects like Gateway. If it becomes law, it would free up funding for the project.

“Many commuters have seen the ever decreasing qualities of transit,” Sherrill said. “Congress has appropriated the money for the Portal Bridge project, but that money is sitting with the Secretary of Transportation.”

According to Sherrill, the Gateway Project timeline projection, which many consider to be a long process, would reap benefits in less time than a decade.

“For some of us, we think of it as a 10-year long process,” she explained. “But we will double our ability to get in and out of the city by having four fully functional tunnels in and out of Manhattan. Right now we have two, which will be refurbished. Before we come back to that final goal, with even one new tunnel, we’d start to see more access because even with one new tunnel, we will have better efficiencies. So it’s not a 10-year wait to start to see some improvements.”

Sherrill stressed the importance of making the funding of the project a priority in Congress and having it signed off sooner than later.

Sherrill also discussed the growing trend regarding the residents of New Jersey relocating to other states. According to a recent study, more people have moved out of the Garden State in 2018 than in any other state.

“We have a state with the highest number of people leaving in the entire nation,” she emphasized. “I think there are several reasons for that, the high cost of living being one. But the more miserable the commute into the city gets, the more people don’t want to live here. This is a key quality of life issue. It comes down to the Gateway Project being funded.”

More information about summer commuting can be found at njtransit.com/inform.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. It seems like Mikie means well but the spin of people leaving NJ because the commute to city stinks is a bit of stretch. “My commute sucks so I am moving to Florida or the Carolinas”??? Really? There are 3 reasons people are moving out…taxes, taxes, taxes. Many of those leaving are taking their publicly funded pensions with them. NJ should think of imposing a penalty on public pension payments on those that move out of this mess. NY does it.

  2. “We have a state with the highest number of people leaving in the entire nation,” she emphasized.

    OK, Did she actually say this was a bad thing? I’ll bet she didn’t explain why this is a bad thing.

  3. Even if NYC commuting issues aren’t a major driver of departures from New Jersey, they’re definitely important to the decision that young families make when it’s time to leave the city for the suburbs. Montclair depends on a steady stream of families choosing Montclair not only over other (less heavily taxed) New Jersey towns, but also over Westchester County, Long Island, etc. Commuting logistics were a big factor in my family’s decision to move to Montclair in 2006. The worse the commute gets—and please believe me when I tell you it’s already bad—the more people may decide to stay on the other side of the Hudson.

  4. Yes, NJT’s train service is bad. The worst since Midtown Direct. And yes, less people will see the value to move across the river…but, New York & Pennsylvania are where the jobs are. Rep Sherrill supports spending $30B for workers commuting to NY. The number reflects a cost of deferred spending going back 20 years.
    Yes, taxes are high (do they ever really come down?) and manufacturing jobs are on a steady descending glide path. We will lose more Mercedes-Benz’s and Hertz’s because we can’t compete with benefits of the Sun Belt for mature companies such as these. We should focus on competing regionally. We don’t have a master plan to create the type of jobs NJ can compete within the region. There are opportunities. Hudson County has the highest (8+%) population growth – I assume because of Back-Office Jersey City. Amazon Distribution created 2,000 jobs in Central NJ. We used to be a pharma powerhouse. From 2010-2016, NJ attracted just $409MM in biotech VC funding – Massachusetts attracted $5.8B. We have less than half the percentage of new, 500+ employee companies versus national average. We got old and property is more expensive.

    Yes, fix NJT by all means, but the elephant in the room is jobs. Specifically, Millennial jobs

  5. Frank: Although I don’t necessarily disagree with you on New Jersey’s need to compete regionally for jobs, I think you have to separate the Gateway project from that broader discussion. Our state simply cannot survive economically without a reliable, high-capacity commuter rail connection to New York City. Building new tunnels shouldn’t have to cost $30 billion, but what it reasonably costs needs to be spent. The feds should pay a share because this is a regional asset and it’s technically Amtrak’s tunnel. New Jersey should pay a share and is prepared to do so. New York needs to pay a share because all those New Jersey residents who work in New York pay New York income taxes. There has to be a way to get this done, but it’s going to require politicians to work together, and that’s unfortunately not the rage these days.

  6. I totally agree we need a 3rd tunnel and we should plan on a 4th tunnel for new technology transport.

    Representative Sherrill threw in the population issue to muddy the waters. I attributed her timing to the Primary. I think it was an intentional, calculated comment that allows her to play to both of her major constituencies. I went with it, but you are right, of course.

    I disagree about the politicians not working together being a contemporary problem. This has been going on for as along as I can remember. Our idea of regional cooperation is the Port Authority of NY/NJ and that is a spending sink hole. They don’t agree, they just spend gobs of money. If the PA-NY/NJ had the project, it would cost $50B. Anyway, this predates the Newt Gingrich political era.

    2012’s Superstorm Sandy just revealed & accelerated the infrastructure problems and the widespread mismanagement at Amtrak & NJT. You were not here, but the Midtown Connection was made in 2002. Ridership jumped 20% as hoped. They knew about the bridge problem. No offense to Ms Sherrill, but her rosy timing predictions about improvements is from someone that has never commuted on the trains here. So, I have to really challenge her on who’s insight she is using to make these prognostications.

  7. Right on cue. #6214 was SRO at Bay, couldn’t fit all those at Bloomfield and just blew by the next stations. NJT had conductors, they had a functioning bridge, working equipment. Same old…

  8. As I stated when I ran against Mikie as an Independent, no funding will come from Washington until there is a long-term Capital Plan. Currently the government has no long term capital funding plan and has a capital infrastructure deficit of over a trillion dollars. How will this be paid for, with a budget deficit? We need to bring private dollars to the forefront. As far as jobs for NJ, my plan was to work from our strengths, not our weaknesses and develop Medical Research & Development Jobs using Federal funding from HHS as Massachusetts and North Carolina have successfully done ($3 billion and $1 billion respectively). Given all the pharma research and institutes of higher learning in NJ and in the 11th CD, this is a no brainer. We need a representative who knows how to connect the VC’s to the entrepreneurs and build jobs around the research hospitals currently on the boards in Nutley, Livingston and Newark… Robert Crook – Crook for Congress – Stop Fighting, Start Fixing

  9. Well, no matter who represents us, I think we will have to wait until after 2024 to see the project’s green light. That means a 2035 ribbon cutting ceremony. Just brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

  10. Frank, According to AOC and others NYC will be under water by 2035. Seems silly to waste money for the city commute when the city will be gone. We better ramp up the development of downtown Montclair.

  11. Washington is a dysfunctional mess. The mid-terms changed the diversity of the House, but little else. The Senate is unchanged. We have the perfect president for our times. Greatest generation to this. At least we have iPhones.

    The recession will do more to cut back on commuters than any rising waters.

    PS: you were around last Summer when downtown flooded with just 3” of rain. Anyone down the hill from the Arts District is in for a rude awakening.

  12. Frank, Washington has been a dysfunctional mess for years we are now seeing it be clearly exposed. It may be a little unsettling to have the curtains drawn back and seeing the cockroaches scramble but a little daylight is a good thing.
    PS: Once you get out of our little enclave of angst you will find a lot of happy people that aren’t upset in the least with president, #metoo, trans pronouns, etc. In fact they don’t give a hoot and have a lot of fun. They may not be as “sophisticated” but they are enjoying life. Hicks, you got to love them!

  13. Don’t be so glum Frank. The new normal is always changing. Don’t watch the “news” or go on Facebook and take a stroll through Montclair. Times are a changin’ for better or worse. Washington has nothing to do with Bloomfield Ave. Imagine being your age in 1969 and your head will explode. We got it easy.

  14. Nope. No Kingsman-type effects. 1969 is like 2019. If you isolate the generational bias, they track almost identically.

    The Boomers just think no one went through what they went through. Although, damn, they had the best music ever.

  15. Ball of Confusion by the Temps pretty much proves your point but the world does seem much tamer now but people are less connected….except digitally.

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