NORTH BERGEN – Democratic lawmakers have found their victims of the ARC killing.
The New Jersey Building Trades provided the bodies for a good old labor rally, combating Gov. Chris Christie’s assertion that creating jobs is secondary to funding the tunnel project.
The ARC tunnel from Hudson County to Manhattan is billed as the largest transportation project in the nation, considering the $6 billion on the table from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
All that’s needed is another $2.7 billion from New Jersey, and some brave souls willing to pick up the cost overruns. Christie said he’s not that guy, jobs be damned.
Today, U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) joined several other ranking officials at a labor rally at the foot of the already-begun rail tunnel.
“Some have said that I have tunnel vision,” Lautenberg said, referring to the years he’s spent planning and securing funding for the project. “You’re damn right I have tunnel vision.”
“(Menendez and I) worked like the devil to make sure the federal government was going to do its share,” Lautenberg said.
Menendez read part of a letter from Christie’s Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson to the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood only five months ago. In the letter, Simpson called the tunnel a “critical project.”
“Tell the governor to stop traveling the country campaigning,” he told the crowd. “Sit here and try to find solutions.”
Menendez offered a handful of alternative plans for the project: “Maybe we can’t have the Cadillac.”
He said some costs could be deferred or portions of the project could be put on hold indefinitely.
Or better, a public-private partnership, like has been done in Denver, Miami, and Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Those people in Iowa don’t have to sit in endless traffic,” he said. “If I can come up with five ideas, I’m sure he can come up with five or ten ideas.”
“We’re not going to allow (Christie) to be tough but stupid,” Menendez said. “You cannot grow if you’re stuck. If you’re stuck in traffic, if you’re stuck without a job.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) said New Jersey has a “crumbling infrastructure” that needs to be addressed.
If it’s not, “New Jersey will fail, and the blame will be placed where it belongs,” Rothman said.
And of the responsible parties, he said, “There’s an election coming up in two weeks. I hope you remember who they are.”
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) said there is no need for a two week timetable on a project of this magnitude.
“That’s not what you do when you you’re trying to bring people together (to find a solution,)” he said.
State Sen. Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) said, no matter what Christie said, “I want to hear about jobs.”
She was joined by state Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Fair Lawn), Assemblymen Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus), Alberto Coutinho (D-Newark), and Tom Giblin (D-Montclair).
Gordon told PolitickerNJ that Christie may be avoiding using an increase in the gas tax – which could fill the Transportation Trust Fund that the ARC money will likely replenish – because the governor is hell-bent on no taxes, no fees.
“We are overtaxed … No one wants to raise taxes, but (the gas tax) should be on the table,” Gordon said, noting that 15 percent of the taxpaying public in this instance are from out-of-state.
Options for the ARC are there, he said, but, “None of these conversations ever took place.”