Booker to Newark leaders: We have a national infrastructure crisis

NEWARK -- U.S. Sen. Cory Booker didn't sugarcoat it. 

The country, he said, is facing an infrastructure crisis -- one that threatens a "traffic Armageddon" for the thousands of commuters who cross the Hudson River every day into the Garden State. 

"We have a crisis, we have a problem. We cannot wait in our local region," Booker said during Leadership Newark's policy summit at Rutgers-Newark Saturday. "No company would allow their physical plant to deteriorate the way we do, undermining their efficiency and productivity."

Recalling his days as Mayor of the city of Newark, Booker said he understood first hand the city's -- and state's -- crumbling infrastructure and the need to create jobs to brace for the future.

"Newark has always stood upon a prize in terms of its infrastructure but that infrastructure is in a serious state of decay. From our water infrastructure to our PATH trains to NJ Transit," he said.

Booker said he helped bring companies like Audible and Prudential to Newark by selling the city's infrastructure hub -- and investing in it will only further draw growth to the city.

"All the things people are seeing in Newark right now they have been fought for 20 plus years. There's a fortitude here that still sources my soul," he said.

He urged the roomful of future leaders to use their activism and creativity to forge a path toward innovation.

"It's not a matter of can we, it's a matter of do we have a collective will as a society to invest in the things that are important," he said. 

Leadership Newark is a nonprofit that develops future leaders. Its executive director Celia King said Saturday's event was the group's third policy summit. 

"We always focus on an issue that's critical and germane to what's happening in the community," she said. "Now they'll get to see a trickle down effect, what happens nationally." 

Citing examples of more efficient ports in other countries and the priority they place on innovation, Booker said he was working to put together a vision for the country in terms of innovation, growth and technology.

"We don't invest in the things that are going to help us to create jobs, grow our economy and win on a global scale," he said. "When we want to do something, we come up with the money to do it."

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