Murphy endorses plan (*cough*) to keep Hudson County gasping. Bad plan | Editorial

Published: Aug. 22, 2022

Seldom do cities decline offers of new roadways worth billions, but that is what Jersey City did to Gov. Murphy’s trojan horse this week, and it’s worth repeating that it has some very cogent reasons.

The Jersey City Council passed a resolution Wednesday opposing the plan to expand the New Jersey Turnpike Extension that runs through the heart of the city, because its elected representatives know that this $4.7 billion expansion will result in more constipation at the Holland Tunnel, more congestion throughout Hudson County, more poison in the lungs of their city’s kids, and more hazardous streets.

The fact that the resolution passed unanimously – one week after a similar declaration sailed through the Hoboken council -- should be enough to convince the governor and the Turnpike Authority that it’s time for another plan, because his support of this massive project is a flimsy, cockeyed view of the commuting horror through the vortex of our state.

As he gave this project his endorsement, Murphy suggested that the vehicles filling New Jersey’s roads will largely be electric by the time this work is done -- “it’ll be a dramatic increase, even between beginning construction and concluding construction,” he says – so don’t sweat the pollution thing, he seems to be saying.

Besides that, he added that it’s “not the only lever we’re pulling,” and that he’s trying to move NJ Transit in a greener direction – an effort that we can appreciate, though that has not exactly been a robust transition.

In short, this is not a solution, this is can-kicking.

The three-phase project calls for more lanes across most of the eight-mile extension -- which will increase volume, because of induced demand – and that will worsen the bottleneck at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, which is not growing any wider. More cars will spill over into the streets of Jersey City and Bayonne, making life miserable for its residents and their health.

This is a dense urban environment, and the air is often terrible. Hudson County has among the highest asthma rates in the state, and the American Lung Association gives it an F with respect to high ozone alert days. More cars and trucks won’t help that: They already are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our state (41%), and 20 years from now, gas-powered cars and trucks will still constitute the majority of vehicles on our roads.

This project also repudiates Murphy’s own climate agenda, as a disapproving coalition of 135 environmental and community organizations points out.

Last November, the governor signed Executive Order 274, which mandated a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and requires all state agencies to develop strategies to meet the so-called “50x30″ goal.

The Turnpike Authority doesn’t seem to know that this goal exists. If you look at its Strategic Plan, its 10-year capital plan, or its website, the terms “climate change” and “environmental justice” do not appear. The Authority not only fails to follow the governor’s order, it undermines it.

It is also ignoring studies -- including one done for NJ Transit -- that affirm that improved public transportation is a better way to stimulate economic growth than highway expansion.

“We understand the extension needs repairs,” says Ward E councilman James Solomon. “But the Turnpike Authority did this with zero consultation with Jersey City. That is a backwards way of urban planning: You’re making highways bigger and bringing cars on the road. Why would we spend $5 billion to not solve a problem, while making the lives of residents worse?”

Or as Mayor Steve Fulop says, “There are many better ways to spend $4.7 billion that will help Jersey City, North Jersey, and the state as a whole.”

The governor is going to have to find better ways, ways which benefit the people in his cities as much as it helps the construction trade that contributes to his Super PAC.

A Murphy spokesman says the governor “will continue to engage with stakeholders impacted by each project.” But the public comment period for this project is coming up in a few months. He doesn’t want this to get as ugly as a morning commute through the Holland Tunnel.

 

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-08-23 02:51:33 -0700