Local 1596

Jersey City Mayor Fulop, Sen. Menendez join NJ ATU in call for transit funding

"Down here, you look at all these great buildings and all the construction that's happening and just a mere couple decades ago ... this was a picture of urban decay," Fulop said at a press conference at the Exchange Place Hudson Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) Station in Jersey City. "What has changed is investment in our highway and mass transportation." The fund is expected to be depleted in July, and if it is replenished, about 112,000 construction projects and almost 700,000 jobs would be thrown into limbo. In 2012 Congress agreed on a two-year measure for highway and mass transit programs after it kept the fund going from 2009 to 2012 with nine brief extensions. The fund, which provides money for road construction, mass transit, and the cleaning and prevention of petroleum leaks, is funded by a federal fuel tax. Ray Pocino, vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said that without necessary funds, derailments, flooding and other dangers will occur more often. Pocino pointed out that the two train tunnels carrying 160,000 passengers between New York and New Jersey every day need to be replaced in less than 20 years. He also highlighted that 3,226 bridges have been classified as structurally deficient and 7,500 have been classified as functionally obsolete. He urged everyone to support the Highway Reauthorization Bill, which would provide more money for bridge and road repairs. Ray Greaves, Chairman of the New Jersey Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Council, said that the highway trust fund is critical to jobs. Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates 36,000 jobs, he said. “At the time that we’re trying to get this economic train moving again here in New Jersey and there’s no better, no better way of getting it done than by supporting this mass transportation bill by getting the dollars we need here in New Jersey,” Greaves said. Renata Silverblatt, senior analyst for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization, stressed the importance of extending the light rail to Bergen County. She stated that 40 percent of workers in Hudson County and 14 percent in Bergen County use public transportation and that the percentage in Bergen County would rise if the light rail was extended. "Public transportation investment not only provides short-term job creation and construction, it is also important for structuring our local employment base over the long term,” Silverblatt said. Menendez talked about how much the HBLR has done for Hudson County including the creation of jobs, reducing traffic, and improving air quality. He suggested that Bergen County should be able to enjoy these same benefits. “But we can’t make these types of investments when our current funding levels are not enough to even maintain the status quo,” Menendez said.

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