Today is a great day for New Jersey and the entirety of the Northeast Corridor. It’s a great day for our commuters, and, indeed, for our common economic future.
And not just because we have the tremendous honor to welcome the President of the United States!
We are also with members of our Congressional delegation – Senator Menendez, Representatives Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Sires, Watson Coleman, Norcross, Gottheimer, Sherrill, and Malinowski.
My partners in governing Senate President Steve Sweeney, Speaker Craig Coughlin.
And many of our partners from organized labor, represented in today’s program by Joseph Williams with SMART Local 800.
With the support of everyone here, starting with President Biden, we are ready to move forward on the much needed and long-awaited replacement of the outdated Portal Bridge.
Mr. President, there are few individuals who understand the importance of ensuring modern, safe, and reliable transportation infrastructure more than you.
It is why I am so proud to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is a cornerstone of your agenda and our nation’s economic future.
And it is why I am so grateful for the support you and your team, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his, have given to not just the Portal North Bridge project, but the even bigger one waiting for us just up the tracks – the construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson.
For upwards of 200,000 daily riders – whether they be on Amtrak or NJ TRANSIT – the approach to the Portal Bridge often comes with a crossing of fingers, a deep breath, and maybe short prayer that the span will be operational and allow the train to cross.
When it works, the Northeast Corridor fully functions. People get to work on-time. Our economy moves forward.
When it doesn’t, the Northeast Corridor, the people it carries, and all the economic activity it supports, comes to a screeching halt. Over the recent past, that’s happened more and more often.
The impacts of these stoppages aren’t relegated to just Newark and New York – they very easily radiate up and down the rails, impacting service from Boston all the way to Washington.
And the delays aren’t just counted in minutes or hours lost in time that should be spent with one’s family, but in millions of dollars of economic activity lost.
President Biden is our nation’s 46th president. The Portal Bridge was opened during the term of our 27th. Let that one sink in for a second.
Next month will mark the bridge’s 111th birthday. It was built in the dawn of the 20th century. It has more than served its times and its purpose. Now, it is time for us to give our region the modern, safe, and reliable infrastructure that a 21st century economy demands. And that’s exactly what the entirety of the Gateway Program will do.
In the process, we’ll be creating good, union construction jobs whose efforts will, in turn, support even more jobs up and down the entirety of the Northeast Corridor. And we’ll also be showing the rest of the country just how vital it is that we have transportation infrastructure every bit as strong as our people and which can turn our greatest economic aspirations into reality.
Every dollar we invest in the new Portal North Bridge, and in Gateway beyond, is going to be magnified many, many times over.
In gained productivity from a workforce that can get where it needs to safely and on time.
In greater value to businesses located where their connection to the markets they need for their success is secure.
And in a stronger, fairer, and more resilient economy.
Those who look at our current infrastructure needs and only see a number and a dollar sign on a page, or just the colors red and blue, are totally missing the point.
The cost of our inaction far outpaces the cost of getting shovels in the ground today. The cost of inaction is in jobs lost, in economic growth forgone, and in an ultimately weaker and less-competitive America.
Those people live up to the words of the poet and playwright Oscar Wilde – who died only 11 years before the Portal Bridge opened, by the way – “A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Today, Mr. President, we are with you to show the value of safe, modern, and reliable infrastructure.
And we are more than honored to have you joining us to highlight one of the most consequential infrastructure projects in our entire nation so far this century.
It is now my pleasure to introduce one of our state’s greatest champions in Washington, Congressman Bill Pascrell.