New Jersey industry groups optimistic about possible U.S. infrastructure deal

May 2, 2019

Industry groups say New Jersey could be a major beneficiary if President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats move forward on a planned $2 trillion infrastructure deal.

“Of course, the plan would help our state and the skilled union workers who are employed by our members, union contractors that have built the highways, bridges and buildings of New Jersey,” said Jack Kocsis, CEO of the Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey. “We look forward to having a definite funding plan in place.”

Governor Phil Murphy and a federal delegation tour the Hudson River Tunnel on Monday, January 28, 2019. (Edwin J. Torres/ Governor's Office)

The deal struck in principle Tuesday between Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would make a significant investment in shoring up the country’s transportation systems, water infrastructure, and broadband service.

Neither side has figured out a funding mechanism for the idea, but Trump and the top Democrats plan to meet again in three weeks to begin working it out.

“While I think everyone is on the same page with both the need for the investment and the benefits of that investment, the devil’s in the details, and how we get to that investment has been the stumbling point,” said Zoe Baldwin, director of government affairs and communications for the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a real process to work that out,” she added.

Trump has long promised a major infrastructure program, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has said it is one area where he and the Republican president can agree.

Experts say the Garden State’s aging infrastructure — especially its transportation system — is in need of upkeep and new construction.

The state’s infrastructure issues do not end with transportation though, according to James Hughes, professor and dean emeritus at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

“We have many aging systems — our water supply system, our system of pipes, our wastewater facilities, electrical transmission, telecommunications,” Hughes said.

One key project for New Jersey that could get a jumpstart from the infrastructure program is the Gateway Tunnel, the multibillion-dollar plan that would double train capacity between northern New Jersey and New York City.