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Congressman Nadler, The benefits of a new Jersey Tunnel

March 3, 2006 @ 12:00 am EST


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This morning our speaker was Congressman Jerry Nadler. The congressman has been keenly interested in transportation issues going back to when he was a state assemblyman.

Mr. Nadler began with a historical overview of transportation infrastructure, and how the building of the Erie Canal catapulted New York from handling 2% of the international trade to 38%. Efficiencies were gained again when the Erie Lackawanna railroad was built. According to the congressman, the slide to oblivion has been constant as the world changes about us. To paraphrase the congressman, the state of rail freight is sorely lacking.

He spoke about the transportation bill that was recently passed. The presidents guidelines dictate that only money developed by highway funds (gas taxes) could be used. That would come to $256 billion The actual needs would have required that $390 billion be spent. The final bill came $286 billion. In this scenario the infrastructure will fail at a greater rate than it can be restored.

Fuel taxes are collected on each gallon of fuel. As fuel increases in cost we buy less of it, resulting in lower and lower revenues being collected.. On the other hand if we continue to increase the number of vehicles on the road, we may get higher revenues, but we also put an even higher stress on our infrastructure, resulting in more need to rehabilitate the infrastructure.

But Mr. Nadler’s main reason for speaking today was to discuss the merits of a proposed freight tunnel. Specifically a rail freight tunnel that will connect New Jersey to Brooklyn. By using a tunnel to come into Brooklyn and therefore, Long Island we could eliminate 1 million trucks from the streets of New York. Moreover this redundancy that would be created would relieve the traffic from the George Washington Bridge. Presently 80% of all food coming into New York is brought in over the GWB. If terrorists are successful in bringing down that bridge, New York would not be able to adequately supply itself.

Rail freight coming and going on Long Island comprises only 1.8% of the total, whereas in other parts of the country it is more like 40%. We can do better. The cost of the tunnel is estimated at $4.2 Billion for a two track system and the payback would be substantial.

Mr. Nadler covered some peripheral issues of rail freight that need to be addressed. For example; In New York State we don’t allow freight rail cars to exceed 286,000 lbs. The rest of the nation allows 335,000 lbs cars. Our infrastructure is capable of handling it, and presently we allow the passenger lines to use locomotives that are substantially heavier. This makes no sense.

The congressman was very knowledgeable on every aspect we could think of asking him about. And we did ask a lot of questions. Some of them were covered in this piece. The conversations that were developed continued long after the meeting had formally adjourned. The LIMBA board will decide on the support of this project based on the usefulness to Long Island. This letter reaches several thousand subscribers and any comments from our readers will be helpful