It’s clear that much of America’s infrastructure needs a lot of work, and President Joe Biden recently visited New Jersey as part of his campaign to garner support for legislation undergoing debate by Democrats in regards to the investment of trillions of dollars into projects to boost social welfare, climate change, and road safety across the country.
Biden, along with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, discussed a state bridge that often cannot be closed without the use of sledgehammers. The two leaders cited this issue as evidence of major issues within infrastructure and the vast amount of reconstruction and repairs that are needed right now in many states.
The Portal Bridge is currently “a chokepoint, a bottleneck, an Achilles’ heel on the Northeast Corridor,” Biden said–a stark outlook for the most highly-used train bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The swing bridge owned by Amtrak Corp. and located over the Hackensack River is 110 years old, and “something goes wrong” about 15% of the time it’s opened, Biden said.
When the bridge needs to be closed, “literally, a sledgehammer [is needed to] knock it back into place–in the year 2021,” said Biden at the event for the bridge’s replacement groundbreaking. “Aging infrastructure like this is more than inconvenience or a nuisance–it’s an impediment.”
Biden has been working to collaborate with Senate moderates who have been concerned about social spending legislation costs, which were initially proposed to be $3.5 trillion for usage over ten years. In late October, Biden met with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to reach a potential agreement regarding a smaller spending budget.
“This initiative is about betting on America, about believing in America,” said Biden. “Let’s get this done–let’s move.”
The bridge replacement project is the first initiative of the overall Gateway project, which will serve as a bridge-and-tunnel renovation and expansion initiative to boost train capacity across the Hudson River. Previously, around 820,000 rail passengers commuted between New York City and another Northeast city each day; because of this, bridge replacement project sponsors have expressed concern that any potential track failures could significantly hinder the economy of this area–a region that is vital to one-fifth of the gross domestic product within the United States.
Still, boosting the accessibility and safety of infrastructure is imperative. The more updated our infrastructure is, the safer our roadways are, and the fewer accidents and deaths we’ll see as a result.
“We see a lot of crashes occurring on roadways in disrepair and in dangerous construction locations, so it’s important to keep roads safe,” said Levinson and Stefani’s Ken Levinson. “When there’s not enough room on the shoulder and you break down, or there’s not an easy path to exit the tollway, or there’s an emergency medical situation, or inclement weather, it creates a lot of danger.”
When there is an obstacle or disruption on any given roadway, many people aren’t sure how to handle it in the safest way–and the possibility of a traffic incident skyrockets, Levinson explained.
“We’ve seen many cases where, in these danger zones, major crashes occur,” he said. “We’ve had cases where–because of mechanical problems–a vehicle has to pull over, and shortly thereafter, there is a major crash. We’ve had professional truck drivers that we represent that while they’re in the process of putting out safety cones, there’s a collision. This is partly because there’s not enough room on the shoulder, and partly because of the inattention of another trucker who has not been properly trained, so that goes directly to having safe roadways.”
For Biden’s economic plans–although specific details still need more clarity–Manchin is confident that Democrats will be able to reach a deal sooner than later. Progressive Democrats in the House have said in the past that they do not plan to vote for an additional infrastructure bill of $1 trillion that was already passed in the Senate until a larger social spending measure plan can be agreed upon.