The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is hearing vocal opposition to the now $10.7 billion expansion project

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTPA) board meeting heard vocal opposition to the proposed expansion of I-78 into the Holland Tunnel and New York City, which recently more than doubled its projected cost to $10.7 billion.

New Jersey Freeway Exit 14B. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The project faces opposition from Jersey City and Hoboken officials, as well as the Empower NJ coalition, which includes local road safety group Safe Streets JC. New Jersey

In August, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) spoke out in favor of the project, shortly after Mark Longo, director of the Engineers Labour-Employer Cooperative, spoke out against opponents of the plan. Outgoing US Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) has highlighted the jobs the project would bring.

“Buried in that budget are the agency’s projection costs, which total a staggering $10.7 billion. They don’t take these public comments seriously. This whole process is a fraud,” Empower NJ attorney John Reichman said on the call this morning.

“…The agency wants to spend literally 20 times what it needs. It will increase traffic congestion, not decrease it. The new cost forecast of $10.7 billion must be the death knell for this project.”

He urged them to gather input from stakeholders who had spoken out at meetings for months when the proposal was budgeted at $4.7 billion.

“Given the exorbitant new cost, this project must now be halted entirely,” said Chris Adair, President of Bike Hoboken.

“Governor Murphy… You can deliver on your promise to improve NJ Transit. Be the progressive climate governor you say you are and stop the authority of the turnpike. Veto their protocols.”

Many others strongly opposed the project and agreed that it should be scrapped altogether.

“Scrap this 10 billion expansion project. Fatal accidents are predictable and avoidable. I’ve struggled with severe and sometimes fatal respiratory problems,” said Tyler Newcomb, a Jersey City paramedic, while Hudson did not have an “F” rating from the American Lung Association.

“This $10 billion project is a waste of money. It will degrade our community.

Additionally, Matthew Golden argued that upgrading the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail for “only” $3 billion would be a better solution to reducing traffic.

“The bridge itself could use some repairs. Spending all that money to expand and make people’s health worse…can’t be that good. I urge Governor Phil Murphy and the board not to authorize this work,” he said.

Talya Schwartz, another Jersey City resident, said this project would set the precedent that “we’re going to expand the freeways forever,” adding that Hudson County should be under a state of emergency, making the claim that Her child’s asthma is not aggravated in other parts of the state.

Hudson County Complete Streets President Emmanuelle Morgen also highlighted poor air quality, noting that air pollution causes thousands of deaths each year.

“50 percent of pollution comes from tire dust and brake dust,” Morgen said, arguing that more electric vehicles wouldn’t help and that investing in alternative modes of transportation would be better.

“We cannot tolerate more motor vehicle traffic in our area and in our world. We need an additional PATH station,” she added, also arguing for more bike lanes.

She also pointed out that there is a regular minute’s silence for gun violence and rarely for accident victims.

“I oppose the plan to expand the I-78 extension. I can’t find a good reason to expand it. Obviously the unions and the construction industry want you to spend the money. There is no possible justification,” Raphael Wakefield said.

“This is just about you and the roadwork unions and the roadwork companies and the governor’s desire to appease them.”

Environment NJ’s Doug O’Malley called the concept “a disaster for Jersey City” that would affect climate change and make local roads more dangerous.

“We’re taking money from valid transportation projects… We’re essentially looking at the highway robbery. It strains credibility to say it is purely a supply chain issue,” he claimed.

“Climate scientists have said we have seven years to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. please wake up You have a historic opportunity to reduce climate change. Go back to the drawing board,” said Holly Cox.

Additionally, Safe Streets JC president Jimmy Lee called the plan “wrong” and “backward and antiquated,” noting that the nearby bridges could be repaired for just five percent of the cost of the expansion.

“This is gross mismanagement of the fund entrusted to the turnpike,” Lee exclaimed.

Brian Scanlon called the project “a total godsend” that would reduce the health and life expectancy of local residents while the mass transit system falters.

Edgar Lopez, speaking on behalf of Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2), said it would harm students at nearby elementary schools as well as Dickinson High School.

“We in Newark already suffer from a multitude of health problems. We already suffer from poor air quality. This is tantamount to slow genocide,” said Newark Environmental Commission Deputy Chairman Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds.

“No long-term report or impact study has been shown to the public. This will contribute to wasting taxpayers’ money. It causes a lack of funding for public transport financing projects. New York City doesn’t want more people going to New York,” added Sam Pesin, President of Friends of Liberty State Park.

The board closed this morning without taking any formal action on the proposal.