Closing Fort Lee traffic lanes to GWB was a reprehensible abuse of power. Likewise the failure to make clear to Super Bowl riders that NJ Transit could in no way handle such high traffic volume was also wrong. Decisions in both cases can be traced to politics in the Executive Office, and those on top who are responsible deserve scrutiny and punishment. The apology yesterday from Port Authority Chair Samson was too little, too late.
These two incidents, however, are like two mosquito bites on an already diseased and decrepit body. They expose the ugly underbelly of a moribund, second-world transportation system – particularly on the heavily traveled routes between NJ and NY. Our arteries are critical for our economy but are now sclerotic as anyone who uses them knows.
The PATH system opened in 1908, The North River Tunnels (Amtrak & NJ Transit) in 1910, The Holland Tunnel in 1927, The Goethals Bridge in 1928, The Outerbridge Crossing in 1928, The Bayonne Bridge in 1931, The GWB in 1931 and The Lincoln Tunnel in 1937. These were engineering marvels in their day but that was 70 to over 100 years ago. Far worse than whatever Christie or his henchmen did in Fort Lee or the Meadowlands was Christie’s failure to build the ARC Tunnel.
These marvels of construction were not cheap in their day, but they were brought about by leadership, vision and innovation. Our current governor lacks those qualities and instead relies on taking money (designated for ARC) from the Port Authority and syphoning funds from NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway which have their own unmet capital requirements. The recent resignation of the Executive Director of NJ Transit will not solve the problem. As Sen. Budget Chair Paul Sarlo says, “We need a stable source for transportation funding.”
Like it or not we get what we pay for. Our state budget does not have the monies to meet our transportation needs. An increase in the gas tax would provide the necessary infusion coupled with federal funds, reorganization of the Port Authority, and leadership from our governor. Maybe these two mosquito bites will draw attention to the bigger problem.