Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Infrastructure Investment Will Boost New Jersey's Economy

Feb 1, 2009
Op-Ed

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced his landmark highway investment plan to Congress in 1955, it was unceremoniously rejected.  Withstanding a year of public scrutiny, an agreement was eventually reached with Congress that history indicates surpassed every economic expectation.  America's roadway revolution was born and the way families traveled, shopped, vacationed, and did business would soon forever be changed.           

Fifty-three years later, President Barack Obama has pitched a comparably bold infrastructure investment plan.  But this proposal comes with a much deeper sense of urgency, a tighter timeline and zero tolerance for political posturing.  It arrives with one underlying goal—to rescue America from the most severe recession in generations.       

Just as the highways of the 1950s transformed American municipalities into new destinations for commerce, recreation and work, President Obama's plan will innovatively modernize towns and cities to excel in the 21st century.

Investment in roadways, cleaner energy sources, technologically advanced schools, efficient healthcare infrastructure and a more competitive business environment will put people to work and create a sustainable return to prosperity. 

Wisely, the President's proposal evokes America's indomitable work ethic and will reinvigorate a workforce that has been suppressed by years of failed economic policies.  With unemployment at a 16 year high, there is only one way out of this recession and it is through an infusion of resources to create long term sustainable job growth.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will slam the breaks on layoffs and create private sector jobs for an estimated 3 to 4 million people.  Further, it will stop the loss of public jobs at a municipal level.  Federal investment in local projects will help municipal governments prioritize essential services like policing, fire protection and education.    

In New Jersey we need to look no further than the Hudson River to see how infrastructure investment can enhance the places we live while putting tens of thousands to work.  A project that I have long championed, the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) trans-Hudson rail tunnel should be the poster project for this economic recovery effort.  It is the perfect example of a project that simply needs a little lift off the ground.   

Though critically important, the ARC Tunnel's benefits extend far beyond the creation of an estimated 50,000 local jobs.  It has the potential to make New Jersey a more desirable state to live, a more attractive commercial destination, a cleaner and less congested place to travel and a safe refuge in the event of a major security incident in New York City. 

The ARC tunnel, though bigger than the rest, is only one among hundreds of worthy shovel-ready New Jersey projects.  As a former member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I fully understand the benefits of working with municipalities to secure funding for construction projects.  Following extensive highway modernization work in Wayne Township, congestion has been significantly reduced and business has expanded.  In Nutley, I have worked with the mayor and school superintendant to convert aging elementary schools into "green" models for energy efficient school construction.  In my home city of Paterson the recent completion of two major bridge projects has opened the city to neighboring communities and created safer routes to commerce and a major medical center.

But for every completed project, another sits in a filing cabinet restrained by bureaucratic red tape or a lack of funding.  The dangerous highway interchange on Route 3 and Route 46 in Clifton at Great Notch and Valley Road for example, needs immediate attention.  It is a serious public safety threat and a tailor made opportunity to put people to work.  

The opportunity to expedite critical projects like this is here now.  And it is not one that we can not let pass us by. 

In the spirit of President Eisenhower, it is time for all parties to lay down ideological differences, cross partisan boundaries and begin a bold economic recovery together on a united front.  This economic storm is not one that brewed overnight, and it is not one that will subside tomorrow morning.  With strong support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, I am confident that America's resiliency will prevail to break us free from the grips of a global economic crisis. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. Represents the Eighth Congressional District of New Jersey

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