Donald Trump just released his infrastructure budget … and it’s both awful and unfair. It is up to us to tell Congress to reject his plan. It’s not only a privatization scheme as Paul Krugman suggests. It also leaves our Gateway Tunnel twisting slowly in the wind. The Trump administration will not even acknowledge that there was an agreement with the prior administration that the federal government would kick in half the bill.
Instead the Trump’s budget envisions that local government must pay $6.25 for each federal dollar it receives. In the past New Jersey’s Transportation Trust fund spending was matched dollar for dollar, but it now will receive far fewer dollars for the projects we wish to undertake.
It’s a good deal for private companies where they might be able to make a profit, but it’s really a scam. For most public projects relying on a private firm to pay for the venture is a non-starter. After all what private company would want to repair a dam, repave a road or improve a bridge and not be able to recoup its investment? The painful alternative would be substantial increase in our taxes and fees or tolls to use such structures.
This is particularly important for the expensive, essential and rapidly deteriorating tunnel which impacts Northeast corridor transportation. There are certain relatively small grants which could beef up funds available but nowhere near enough to assure completion of the project.
In his waning days as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee it is Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen who has the juice to at least keep the tunnel project alive. He secured $900 million in Gateway funds in the House spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 – an amount now in danger. As the Star Ledger points out, It remains to be seen whether the money will make it in the final legislation now being negotiated with Frelinghuysen and other Senate and House Appropriations Committee members.
Our Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate subcommittee overseeing mass transit, says, “We need a real commitment from the federal government to improve our nation’s aging infrastructure, not a smoke-and-mirrors magic act that ultimately leads to folks paying more for less in the form of toll hikes and fare increases.” You can see the decrepitude of the tunnel pictured immediately above.
This is a clarion call to let Sen. Menendez, Rep. Frelinghuysen, and your own district representative know that Trump must not be able to get away with this. New Jersey and all states deserve a more realistic plan to deal with our crumbling structures.
Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times.