When North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was appointed as the chairman for the Senate Committee on Transportation years ago, he wanted to see three major transportation projects in his hometown. Two of them have since been completed - an overpass across Routes 1 & 9, and another overpass at the Union Turnpike and Paterson Plank Road, linking North Bergen to Secaucus.
But there was a series of transportation funding holdups proposed bridge at 69th Street and Tonnelle Avenue, which would enable motorists to avoid the major delays caused by the CSX rail line that cuts across 69th Street between Tonnelle and West Side Avenues.
However, when Gov. Jon Corzine took office in January, he ensured that the Transportation Trust Fund, set up to help subsidize projects throughout the state, would receive an additional $5 billion over the next five years.
Construction on the 69th Street overpass will begin later this year, and officials are hopeful that the project can be completed by 2008.
"It's very gratifying, because as chairman, I've been pushing for this and to finally see the third overpass become a reality is a blessing," Sacco said. "I've been pushing for this since I became the committee chairman in 1994, so it's been a long time. Everyone agreed that we needed the overpasses and we were fortunate to start the first two at the same time. But the last one has taken a great deal of work and time, including refinancing the Transportation Trust Fund."
Sacco said that having easier access to West Side Avenue will now encourage businesses to explore commercial space there.
"I would say that the overpass would greatly help business on West Side," Sacco said. "There will be much easier access there. We won't be land-locked anymore and everyone will be able to get to West Side Avenue much easily. It's a great day."
Tonnelle will also get work
Along with the $38 million, North Bergen will receive an additional $51 million over the next five years to repair and improve Tonnelle Avenue, complete with sidewalks and widening of the road, from Secaucus Road to Broad Avenue. That is the entire length of Routes 1&9 in the township.
"That money will help us in many ways," Sacco said. "We'll be able to widen the roads on Tonnelle, but also fix the drainage, the electrical work. It's a big project."
However, it also means that there will be two major construction projects going on simultaneously on North Bergen's busiest thoroughfare.
"Our residents will have to have some patience when the construction is being done," Sacco said. "We can't turn away the additional $50 million. It just happens that they both came at the same time. I knew that we should have done the 69th Street overpass sooner, but we have to live with it now. It will be better in the long run."
Damien Newton, the New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, worked hard last summer to draw attention to the fact that the Transportation Trust Fund might run dry. Newton had called for press conferences to draw attention to the dilemma, including one in North Bergen, near the sight of the proposed overpass.
"It definitely drew some attention to the issue and it definitely didn't hurt the cause," Newton said last week. "We're happy to see the project get funded. Not only will this project help commuters, but it will increase support for rail freight, because people won't be so bothered by it. It will then lead to less trucks on the road."
Another huge piece of the funding pie is the proposed $1.31 billion set aside for NJ Transit to build a new commuter train tunnel linking Secaucus to Manhattan.
Jersey City, Kearny and Harrison will also benefit from the latest figures released by the state DOT.