Murphy says he supports controversial $4.7B plan to widen N.J. Turnpike extension

Published: Aug. 16, 2022

In his first public comments on the matter, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signaled his support for a $4.7 billion plan to widen the New Jersey Turnpike extension to and from the Holland Tunnel that has drawn the wrath of some environmentalists and local leaders.

“It’s quite ambitious, it’s needed,” Murphy said during his TV show on News 12 New Jersey.

In the face of concern the project will lead to more pollution, the Democratic governor also stressed the expansion will allow for a “dramatic increase” in electric vehicles.

“It’s where the world is headed,” Murphy said, adding that’s on top of his administration’s efforts to improve NJ Transit.

“There’s not one magic wand here in terms of where the future will take us,” he continued. “But the combination of electric vehicles, green buses, railcars, all of which are working safely and on time, that makes you a lot cleaner, better environmental New Jersey.”

The plan is the first widening the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is pursuing in its current capital plan funded by a 2020 toll increase.

The project would widen and repair the 8-mile extension that connects the Turnpike to the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan. It also includes replacing the Newark Bay Bridge that was opened in 1956.

But Murphy’s comments put him at odds with fellow Democrats who lead Hoboken and Jersey City and have come out against the plan. At the same tIme, environmentalists say the project conflicts with Murphy’s climate change goals. The critics say the plan would divert more traffic onto local roads and cause more pollution.

The Hoboken City council passed a resolution last week calling on the Turnpike Authority to halt work on the project and and “immediately undertake” a “comprehensive climate and economic analysis of the best ways to improve transportation” in Hudson County.

The Jersey City council is prepared to vote soon on a similar resolution. Democratic Mayor Steve Fulop’s administration formally opposed the project in a letter.

Environmental groups filed a petition in May against the project, but the Turnpike Authority denied it.

The authority has said it already installed electric vehicle charging stations at highway rest stops and taken other steps to align with Murphy’s goal to make New Jersey run 100% on clean energy by 2050.

Opponents of the project have said repairing and rehabilitating the extension would be a better option than adding lanes.

Murphy’s comments supporting the project come less than a week after a top laborers union blasted Hoboken and Jersey City council members for opposing the plan.

The Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative said they are “deeply troubled” by the councils’ resolution against the “desperately needed widening.”

“We all wish to wave the magic wand so traffic would disappear, pollution would not exist, and unicorns would safely stroll down Washington or Grove Street,” the union said.

“Unfortunately, we live in the real world and over 100,000 vehicles travel through the Holland Tunnel daily. Goods, services, employees, and tourists all use this vital economic highway. Road expansion will reduce congestion and pollution from vehicles idling as well as grow both the local and regional economies.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-08-17 03:19:06 -0700