Access to the Region’s Core Groundbreaking
Remarks for Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration
Access to the Region's Core Groundbreaking
June 8, 2009
On behalf of President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood, I'm delighted to be here today to celebrate a historic breakthrough for one of the nation's most important public works projects – Access to the Region's Core.
On behalf of President Obama, I'm here to announce our intention to sign an Early Systems Work Agreement of 1.35 billion dollars -- the largest agreement ever for a project at this phase.
This agreement includes Federal and local funds from a great many sources, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
My announcement today is the precursor to the Obama Administration's plan to sign a Full Funding Grant Agreement for this project.
That agreement will provide a full $3.0 billion in FTA discretionary funds to help complete this landmark project.
That's the largest commitment made to any transit project anywhere in the history of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It's most appropriate that the Obama Administration makes this historical commitment here in New Jersey. It's not just because New Jersey is the most transit-intensive state in the nation. It is because of the leadership that has been demonstrated by Governor Corzine, NJ TRANSIT, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the entire New Jersey delegation, in making this project a reality.
These are the projects that transform people’s lives.
These are the bold projects that, in the past, were either
- debated to death or
- simply ignored.
Thankfully, as a result of Governor Corzine’s leadership and President Obama’s vision for recovery, this groundbreaking signals the start of a new era.
President Obama and Governor Corzine represent a different partnership from the past.
Today’s groundbreaking demonstrates that this President and this Governor will not allow Washington and Trenton to just sit on the sidelines while
- our congestion gets worse,
- our commutes get longer,
- our air gets dirtier; and
- our planet gets warmer.
Today's groundbreaking is one of many events where we, as a nation, demonstrate our ability to move from "Yes we can" to "Yes we will."
This project truly will transform people's lives.
It will transform the lives of thousands of unemployed construction workers and their families as they get called back to work for the long haul.
This is what President Obama means by recovery. It means putting people back to work now, to improve the lives of so many others for years to come.
This project will transform the lives of millions of commuters over the next several decades as their commute gets significantly shorter.
This project will take roughly 40 minutes off the average round trip commute for the people of New Jersey and parts of New York.
What does an extra 40 minutes mean for those families?
- It means the opportunity to see your spouse or your kids before leaving for work.
- It means the opportunity to spend time with your kids before they have to go to bed.
- It means the opportunity to have breakfast or dinner together as a family.
- It means the opportunity to make sure homework is getting done.
- It means actually having a chance to get laundry done, or get to the store, or to look in on an aging relative.
- An extra 40 minutes means having the time to "have a life" -- even during a hectic work week.
And this project truly is of historic significance.
[As has already been pointed out] It has been roughly one hundred years since the last rail tunnel under the Hudson was opened.
On November 27, 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad sent its first train through that tunnel from Penn Station to Perth Amboy.
To give everyone some context, that very same month,
- the Wright Brothers demonstrated that you can use an airplane to transport cargo. That historic flight went all the way from Dayton, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio.
- That same month, the Mexican Revolution began.
- The President was William Howard Taft. The Governor of New Jersey was John Franklin Fort.
- And, yes, back then, one of New Jersey's U.S. Senators was named "Frank."
- His full name was Frank Obadiah Briggs.
Since that time – since November of 1910 --
- the population of New Jersey has more than quadrupled.
- The population of New York City has almost tripled.
Yet this same tunnel has been required to accommodate each and every Amtrak and NJ Transit train crossing under the Hudson.
A new tunnel has been talked about for 80 years.
So, put simply, this event is many decades overdue. Finally… today… through the leadership of President Obama, Jon Corzine and the New Jersey Congressional delegation, we are now ready to make history again.
With today's event, we break ground on a project to immediately double rail capacity under the Hudson.
And, I thank the Governor for his earlier statement committing to keep the project on time and within budget.
Needless to say, these two leaders could not have made this happen without the aggressive support of the State's Congressional delegation.
Frank Lautenberg has been champion of transit and rail improvements for his entire public life -- whether its:
- Keeping Amtrak alive during hostile Administrations, or building
- the Hudson-Bergen line, or
- Lautenberg station, or
- the full electrification of the Northeast Corridor.
For ten years, I had the privilege of being his staff guy on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. Today, as Federal Transit Administrator, I’m thrilled to be back as his teammate.
Senator Bob Menendez has also been a fierce advocate for New Jersey’s commuters. Now, just this year, Senator Menendez has risen to the role of Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that will rewrite our transit laws for the next six years.
Together, I look forward to working with him to craft a Federal transit plan that will bring the successes of New Jersey to the rest of the country.
This New Jersey Congressional delegation is a formidable team like no other.
It is this team that has allowed us to make history today.
I conclude by just repeating that President Obama, Secretary LaHood, and I couldn't be more pleased that the Federal Transit Administration will be a full partner in this history-making project.
So, on behalf of the President and the Secretary, I want to thank everyone who made this day possible.