Rep. Sherrill Testifies about Gateway Project in front of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Washington, DC – This morning, Representative Mikie Sherrill testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the importance of funding the Gateway Tunnel and rail maintenance along the Northeast Corridor.
To watch Representative Sherrill’s testimony, please click here.
Representative Sherrill’s testimony comes ahead of her participation in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee field hearing on the Gateway Project to be held on Thursday, May 2nd, and Friday, May 3rd. During the field hearing, the House delegation will tour the existing Hudson River Tunnel and participate in a roundtable with Gateway Project stakeholders.
PREPARED REMARKS BELOW:
Representative Mikie Sherrill
Transportation and Infrastructure Full Committee Hearing
“Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Members’ Day Hearing”
Thank you, Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and Members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify today. I want to particularly recognize my New Jersey colleagues, Rep. Sires, Rep. Payne, and Rep. Malinowski, who work so hard to advance New Jersey’s priorities as members of this committee.
I was glad to see yesterday that the President and Speaker Pelosi met to talk about infrastructure, and agreed to move forward on a $2 trillion infrastructure package. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to convey to the Speaker how important the Gateway Tunnel project is in particular, and that’s why I’m here today.
In fact, a good starting point for this administration would be to release the funds already appropriated to the Gateway Tunnel Project so we can immediately get started on this critical priority.
Because the Gateway Tunnel Project is the nation’s most urgent infrastructure project.
As the members of this committee know all too well, 20,000 commuters use the century-old Hudson River Tunnel to travel in and out of New York each day. It is the lynchpin of the passenger rail network: the most heavily-trafficked rail corridor, connecting train routes in 20 states.
Superstorm Sandy badly damaged the existing tunnel. I examined the damage a few months ago -- the brackish water that tore through the tunnel has left behind exposed rebar, corroded wires, and crumbling walls. Maintenance crews are only able to do basic upkeep because they can only operate for a few hours a night, hauling their equipment in and out of the tunnel for each triage session.
I know the committee has focused on the cost of doing nothing. Well, the cost of doing nothing to address the poor condition of the current tunnel is staggering.
A complete collapse of the tunnel could injure thousands and cost our economy an estimated $100 million a day.
I recently hosted a discussion with the Regional Plan Association on their new report on the Hudson River Tunnel. A planned closure of half the tunnel would be a $16 billion hit to the national economy over four years and a $22 billion hit to residential property values in New Jersey alone. Rising air fares, more pollution, longer commutes, and increased motor vehicle accidents will further harm the single most economically productive region in our country.
Just as important to my constituents, every deferred decision on the Gateway Project means mounting delays. It seems as though every few months, we read about a train stopped in the tunnel -- or in October 2018, overhead power cables puncturing the top of a train car, stranding 1,600 commuters.
As a working parent, I know the stress of a delayed train when you are racing to pick up your kids at daycare, or make it home to watch a lacrosse game. I am on text chains with moms in my community who have been stranded, feverishly working to find someone to pick their kids.
Ryan Coakley, a regular commuter from Montclair, described his commute as “a picture of inefficiency.” Packed trains, constant delays, and a stressful commute. He said that in order to coach his kid’s team, he has to take a half day off from work because he can never depend on trains being on time.
Or Michael Preston, who has commuted into the city from Madison for 15 years. He compared riding the train to “death by a thousand cuts.” He now leaves two trains earlier than years before, because he knows if he needs to be to a meeting on time, he just can’t count on the system to get him there.
We are also approaching a new crisis with a shortage of train engineers for NJ Transit. This workforce gap leaves our transit system operating well below capacity going into the busy summer months. In fact, it's already been dubbed “A Summer of Hell.”
We are better than this. There’s no reason for transit agencies to struggle to maintain the workforce to keep the trains running on time. I look forward to working with this committee to explore how the Federal Transit Administration can provide greater assistance for recruiting and training to fix these workforce shortages.
Although I was proud to partner with members of this Committee to advocate for funding the Federal-State Partnership for a State of Good Repair, that’s not enough. We must go beyond that and create a dedicated funding source for passenger rail projects and provide Amtrak contracting authority to advance the work that we all know needs to be done.
New Jersey sends more money to Washington in federal tax dollars, and gets back less, than almost any other state. My constituents do not feel Congress is working for them, because common sense things like this tunnel, or rail maintenance, are put on ice because of partisan politics.
Nothing affects people’s lives who go in and out of New York more than their commute. It is unavoidable, and it must be done every day. We owe the hard-working men and women of our region a safe, reliable commute home.
We have a tremendous opportunity to greenlight the funding for the new tunnel. I look forward to joining you, Chairman DeFazio, and members of this committee on Thursday and Friday to tour the Hudson River Tunnel and move forward on Gateway. We owe the American people no less.