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Representative Mikie Sherrill. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

N.J. House Democrats point to Gateway Program as major win

Infrastructure project could play role in general election campaigns

By Joey Fox, August 01 2022 5:06 pm

In politics, one of the most important questions to ask an incumbent representative is, what have you accomplished for your constituents? With today’s groundbreaking of the Portal North Bridge in Kearny, vulnerable New Jersey Democrats can point to the ongoing Gateway Program and say: that.

Among those present at the groundbreaking today were Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), all of whom face competitive or potentially competitive re-election bids this November.

Like virtually every other House Democrat, the three representatives were strong supporters of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which allotted federal money to the project. The bridge itself may not be finished until 2026, but Gottheimer and Sherrill both told the New Jersey Globe that the project is a major concern for their constituents and that they’re thrilled it’s gotten underway.

“This has been a huge issue,” Sherrill said. “Years ago I was called the ‘tunnel-obsessed congresswoman,’ because this has been something I’ve been focused on since my first race. To see this come to fruition now is really a great thing.”

“I was out there, front-and-center, fighting to help craft and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” Gottheimer agreed. “This is literally the fruits of all our work.”

The broader Gateway Program is still in its early stages, and some large segments of it like the Hudson Tunnel won’t be completed for years. That makes it difficult to directly incorporate into a campaign, since so far, the only physical manifestation of the Portal North Bridge is literally a pile of dirt.

Still, given how many Republicans opposed the infrastructure legislation that helped fund the project – 30 Senate Republicans and 200 House Republicans voted no on the final bill – Democrats like Sherrill, Gottheimer, and Malinowski can point to the progress made under a Democratic Congress and warn of the dangers Republicans pose.

“Of course I’m going to talk about it, because it matters to people,” Gottheimer said. “They talk to me all the time about, ‘Where are we on the train tunnel? How’s Gateway coming along?’ … The bottom line is, we fought for help to get this done for folks, and that’s our job.”

Sherrill added that even if Republicans take control of Congress, she thinks the Gateway Program will continue unabated; it’s just too important, she said, to be thrown off course now.

“This is the most significant infrastructure project in the nation,” Sherrill said. “I find it hard to believe that now that we’re finally, excuse the pun, getting the train on the track, that [anyone would] derail it.”

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