Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Building Bridges

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Building Bridges

Article excerpt

EARLIER this week, President Obama gave a speech with a bridge as his backdrop. It wasn't that bridge, the one named after the nation's first president. It was the Tappan Zee, a 1952 span that is being replaced, none too soon.

As Obama said after observing cracks in the bridge's pavement exposed views of the river below, "Now I'm not an engineer, but I figure that's not good."

The same sentence could apply to U.S. Senate Republicans voting down a tax-cut bill Friday in protest over Democrats' control of that chamber. That does not bode well for Congress to find common ground on anything, including a $302 billion transportation infrastructure bill. The Grow America Act would provide financing to thousands of road and transit projects across the nation. Some of the funding would come from federal gas taxes, but revenue would also be raised by closing corporate tax loopholes and making changes in business taxes.

The need to address the nation's aging and crumbling infrastructure is great, but the political will to fund these projects is not there in Congress. Fiscally conservative Republicans want to reduce, not expand federal funding for mass transit and infrastructure projects. They see roads, bridges and rail as primarily state problems.

Here in New Jersey, Governor Christie refuses to acknowledge there is a funding problem for infrastructure projects. The state's Transportation Trust Fund is about to be depleted. All the revenue coming in will pay for debt. The crisis was not caused by Christie, but it is his crisis to solve.

The governor refuses to consider raising the state's low gas tax, which would bring in new revenue to repair infrastructure. By canceling the ARC tunnel - a trans-Hudson rail project - Christie was able to divert more than $1 billion from the Port Authority to pay for work on the Pulaski Skyway. …

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