The atmosphere in the US Senate chamber in the days following the 9/11 attacks was surreal. Nobody knew where the next attack would be or what the future might hold. Scores of briefings by uniformed personnel reviewed Al Qaeda base camp locations and lists of vulnerable domestic sites.
The first potential targets on almost everybody’s list was the Hudson River crossings from New Jersey to New York. The aging rail tunnels had the largest volume of passenger traffic in the nation. Escape and ventilation systems were inadequate and a failed terrorist plot had already put us on notice. The Hudson crossings were our soft underbelly and Al Qaeda knew it.
I probably gave the same speech five times. While New Jersey appreciated the thoughts and prayers of my colleagues for our fallen citizens, we also needed protection. When the emergency legislation appropriating funds for the 9/11 attack was circulated, I had my answer. The Senate provided funds to begin engineering a new safe and secure rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
During the last decade the entire New Jersey delegation has worked to continue federal funding. Much has been written about the economic imperative of the tunnel. Commuter rail lines can double and ease the commute of thousands. Construction workers will find work in the midst of the recession and new efficiencies will be found for the $50 billion in cross Hudson commerce.
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the worst attack on the United States in history. It will be a poor remembrance if we lay wreaths, recite prayers but abandon our commitment to strengthen America’s most vulnerable terrorist targets. Governor Christie’s commitment to control costs for the Tunnel is understood and appreciated. These are tough times and every dollar should be saved.
What began on 9/11 has not ended. The cost of securing the lives of thousands of New York and New Jersey commuters is no more than a few days of military spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s also part of the same war. The new rail tunnel must be built.