Members of the public spoke and shared their collective concerns for over 90 minutes in opposition to the proposed Turnpike expansion project at a meeting held by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
The original draft of the project submitted by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the NJ Department of Treasury requested a budget of $4.7 billion. In the meeting today scheduled by the NJTA the final accepted requested budget is $10.7 billion, more than double of the original requested budget.
“This number was shocking but not surprising,” said John Reichman, a member of EmpowerNJ , an environmental coalition fighting against fossil fuel projects and climate change in New Jersey. “Let me say the entire way there you’re setting up the public comment procedure seems to be designed to limit public comments, not to allow them or encourage them.”
The project would be divided into three phases, widening the extension to four lanes in both directions, and also replacing exit 14 in Newark and 14A in Bayonne, according to the Newark Bay Hudson County Extension Needs Assessment and Alternatives Study, as reported by the Hudson Reporter.
In addition, the project would expand and repair the 8-mile extension that connects the Turnpike to the Holland Tunnel, including replacing the Newark Bay Bridge.
Both Jersey City and Hoboken city officials have passed resolutions in disagreement with the proposed New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Last year Gov. Phil Murphy launched a New Interim Greenhouse Reduction Goal which would invest $33 million in transportation projects meant to secure Jersey’s clean energy future and protect residents quality of life as reported by the Hudson Reporter.
But the governor has also echoed opposition of the controversial Turnpike highway expansion to and from Holland Tunnel, as reported by NJ.com.
“The idea that we should be expanding this eight mile stretch of highway to the tune of over $10 billion is completely absurd,” said Chris Adair, president of Bike Hoboken. She called out Gov.Murphy, who was not in attendance at the meeting. “If you’re listening [addressing the governor] you would make good on your promise to improve New Jersey Transit.”
Tyler Newcomb, who joined the meeting over the phone and is the organizer of NJ Turnpike Trap, a coalition against the city’s Turnpike expansion, said that as an EMT he has seen the first hand impact of pedestrian accidents caused by the highway. He also attended the public demonstration on Nov. 12 when cyclists banded together against the Turnpike expansion.
“I’ve had to deal with serious and sometimes fatal respiratory complaints that are only exacerbated by the Turnpike extension,” he said. “By continuing with this project Governor Murphy and the Turnpike Authority are not only committing climate arson, but are actively participating in the manslaughter of our most vulnerable populations.”
Talya Schwartz, who is a resident of Jersey City and has two kids, one who is asthmatic, said she was concerned for their health if the Turnpike expansion were approved.
“I believe Hudson County should be considered a state of emergency in terms of our air quality,” she said. “I believe that before entering any kind of construction, to expand the highways, health studies need to be done.”
Sam Pesin, who is the president of Friends of Liberty spoke over the phone at the meeting. “This plan will go down in history as a deaf, dumb and a blind plan to reality. “This plan tells the people of Jersey City to go to hell and that you don’t care about the quality of life.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Jordan Coll can be reached at email@example.com.