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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez speaks at a press conference highlighting a $1.1 billion infrastructure plan to repair bridges in New Jersey. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

N.J. politicians converge on Secaucus to highlight infrastructure funding

Murphy, Booker, Menendez tout plans to replace eastbound Route 3 bridge

By Joey Fox, January 25 2022 2:46 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy joined Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bob Menendez, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), and a number of other political and labor officials this morning in Secaucus to highlight the $1.1 billion allotted by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  towards repairing New Jersey’s bridges.

Specifically, the event was focused on the eastbound Route 3 bridge over the Hackensack River, which is one of the state’s most troubled bridges and will be completely replaced. But it also served as something of a victory lap for the politicians in attendance who fought to get the $1.2 trillion deal, which also earmarks another $11 billion for non-bridge projects in New Jersey, through Congress last year.

“Our previous president talked a lot about infrastructure, but he never delivered,” Menendez said. “It took a Democratic president and a Democratic House and Senate to get the job done. And now, New Jersey workers are going to get the job done repairing, replacing, and improving bridges across our state.”

The current eastbound Route 3 bridge, one of the 502 in the state that need improvements or overhauls, connects Secaucus to East Rutherford and is one of the key arteries connecting North Jersey to New York City. When the new bridge is built, it will both be sturdier and have the capacity for a light rail connection from Secaucus Junction to recreational areas like the American Dream Meadowlands mall.

“When the bridge’s replacement is built, it will include a feature to lay down a light rail connection across the river,” Murphy said. “That is, in and of itself, a potential game changer… That is an option we will have as a state, obviously an option we want to pursue.”

But according to Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, it may still be some time before New Jersey drivers are able to reap the benefits of the investment. The infrastructure deal allows for a five-year funding window, and this particular project will still be in the planning stages for the next two years before construction begins.

“Because of the efforts of our congressional delegation, we have five years to get these projects up and in,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “In past investment bills that have gone through, we had to have shovel-ready projects. Our congressional delegation had the vision to fight for shovel-worthy projects.”

“Big things don’t happen in small amounts of time,” Menendez added. “I think what’s important for people to know is that this is going to be a reality… The money’s here, the design is going to begin, and that means we are going to see success.”

In addition to Murphy, Gutierrez-Scaccetti, and the three members of Congress, also in attendance were Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus), Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, North Bergen Commissioner Julio Marenco, West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, and LiUNA New Jersey co-chairman Ray Pocino.

Menendez won’t commit to backing Menendez for Congress

Port Authority Commissioner Rob Menendez’s bid for New Jersey’s 8th congressional district has gotten the support of virtually every major Democrat in New Jersey politics, from Gov. Phil Murphy to Senator Cory Booker. There’s one prominent name missing from the list of endorsements, however: Menendez’s father, Senator Bob Menendez.

Realistically, the elder Menendez is sure to support his son’s bid for Congress, and has likely already played a key role in making sure state Democrats line up behind him. But asked today whether he plans to formally endorse his son, Menendez demurred.

“At some point in time, in the near future, I’ll speak to [whether I’m supporting him],” Menendez said.

As soon as the New Jersey Globe broke the news of Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York)’s retirement last month, the younger Menendez has been the dominant frontrunner to replace him. Menendez already has the support of the Hudson and Union County Democratic Parties, critical for gaining a favorable position on the primary ballot.

So far, Menendez faces two opponents in the primary: Ricardo Rojas and David Ocampo Grajales. Neither has run for political office before, but Rojas was the campaign manager for Hector Oseguera, who ran against Sires in the 2020 Democratic primary and got 27% of the vote.

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