“We are thinking big again!”

Those were Governor Murphy’s very memorable words to a standing-room-only crowd of 600 at the 21st Annual Transportation Conference of the New Jersey Alliance for Action. During a historic day with a one-of-a-kind agenda filled with New Jersey’s most important transportation decision makers, the Governor’s remarks focused on the vital link between transportation and long-term economic success.

Governor Murphy recognized the now 50th year of the Alliance with the words”…the Alliance is grounded in the principle of partnership”. And he expressed his appreciation for the partnership he has enjoyed with the Alliance.

New Jersey is in an unprecedented era of infrastructure spending and things do not appear to be slowing down at all.

The Governor also exhorted the audience that “Future of America runs through the heart of NJ” referring to our key status as a transportation corridor, for vehicles, rail, port, and airports.

After hearing from the Governor, we went to the “action” on unprecedented construction and capital spending from key state, regional and federal agencies. The Alliance for Action assembled the leadership or the top capital construction official from each of seven agencies.

Alliance members heard from :

NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti touted the Department issuing more than $1B in work for the fifth consecutive year. Those monies were also just added to as NJ recently captured more than $425M in reapportioned federal monies. That happened because the State had projects “ready to go” and the federal government listened during its annual funding reapportionment cycle. NJ got the fourth highest amount of these dollars in the nation.

Gateway Development Commission CEO Kris Kolluri noted that construction of the Gateway Project is underway with the announcements on the Tonnelle Avenue Projects and that five of nine key subprojects will either be started or procured by the end of this year. That fulfills a goal laid out at our event last year.

$6.88B is presently committed by the federal government for Gateway in what President Biden called the most important infrastructure project in the nation. The Commission and partner transportation agencies will be aggressive in pushing for more.

South Jersey Transportation Authority Executive Director Stephen Dougherty told the audience that all electronic tolling on the Atlantic City Expressway (ACE) will be a reality in 2025. ACE will be the first toll road in the state to have that distinction. The ACE will also undergo a major widening at it western end. And SJTA will continue with more service enhancements to Atlantic City Airport that will serve passengers needing to go to Philadelphia.

New Jersey Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett talked about key projects to serve his rail and bus network: Long Slip Project, Newark Bus Garage, the Lyndhurst and Perth Amboy Stations, the Walter Rand Transportation Center and the Delco Lead Yard Project, among others. All are key projects going into 2024-5.

These projects will help continue an ambitious capital program that is second in the nation only to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. NJ TRANSIT has pushed out more than $6B in capital projects since 2018.

Rizwan Baig is the new Chief Engineer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He provided the longest term view of any speaker at the event, providing a 20-year look into the future for PANYNJ plans such as sustainability. There are more than $200B in projects are “in play” in the region by the Port Authority.

Among those in New Jersey in the future are:

  • EWR improvements Air Train and Term B replacement
  • Outerbridge Crossing eventual replacement
  • Replacement of the 80-year-old HELIX to the Lincoln Tunnel
  • NJ port facility strategic improvements

Jim Carone became Executive Director of the NJ Turnpike Authority earlier this year and speaker for the first time to an Alliance audience. The biggest project on the horizon is the $6.7B upgrade to the Newark Bay Extension, replacing a span that was constructed in the 1950s.

Finishing up this impressive roster of speakers was Laura Mason, AMTRAK’s EVP of Capital Delivery.

Amtrak is moving to a tripling of its planned capital spending with $4B planned in in FY 24 and $6B in FY 25 (contrast to about $2B this year). Amtrak’s goal to have $32B committed to projects by the start of 2026.

Among key Amtrak projects in the region are: The Sawtooth Bridge, the Newark Dock Bridge and the Sunnyvale Yards in Queens . As Ms. Mason put it with regard to the latter; “All those trains have to have some place to go” after leaving Penn Station.

Planning for these projects clearly fold into Amtrak’s strategies for 2045 and beyond, when it expects to have twice as many trains running through the region as they do today.

To conclude on what our audience heard today, we reference the words of Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti” “Everyone uses transportation every day”. A great summary for our conference because how things get there and how we get there depend on the strength of our transportation network.