Regrets, we’ve got a few: A Portal Bridge lesson

GDC The Portal Bridge replacement project is part of the so-called Gateway Tunnel project.

We all know that sick-to-our-stomach feeling — when you realize you’ve ignored the obvious for too long, saying it could wait, only to find out it couldn’t. And, now, you’re stuck with loads of regret. Maybe it was buying that stock. “Apple can’t keep going up.” Or making that dinner reservation. “Don’t worry, they always have a few tables.” Or even asking that special someone to a special event. (Prom, anyone?)

We’re now confident that I-shoulda-pulled-the-trigger moment is going to come to our region when it comes to the Gateway Project. The only difference is, there appears to be nothing we can do about it.

The 108-year-old Portal Bridge failed to close properly twice last Tuesday. And, as we wrote this editorial Thursday for the print edition coming out Monday, we were thinking there was a 50-50 chance it would fail to close at least once by then.

And, sure enough, it did.

This should be the cold-sweats wakeup call the federal government needs to fully fund the Gateway Tunnel project — the one where redoing the bridge is one of the smaller tasks in an infrastructure project of the century.

Failing to close twice on the same day caused untold havoc to a limited number of commuters. Imagine when one of the tunnels finally fails? Gov. Phil Murphy has. “It is past time for the Portal Bridge to be replaced with a modern, reliable span,” he said. “It is past time for the Trump administration to fund its share, so our commuters can get to work, and our economy can get moving.”

Good thoughts. But we fear they will not be heard. There is this week’s election. Reaction to this week’s election. An immigration issue — or maybe even something in the sporting world. Who cares about a bridge? All we can do is sit and wait.

But while our hands are tied on this issue, they are not on others. While a real Portal Bridge or tunnel problem would be calamitous to our state, they are not the only issues that fall into that category.

When will there be a real discussion on unpaid pension premiums and overly generous benefits? A lock-yourself-in-a-room-until-it-gets-settled discussion. (Yes, we acknowledge they were collectively bargained.) When the state goes bankrupt — or simply collapses under its own weight — everyone will look back (find someone to blame) and then privately come to the conclusion that everyone should have done something sooner. When are we going to make real sacrifices to fix New Jersey Transit or our own crumbling infrastructure?

We’ll admit, it’s hard to be proactive. It’s hard to explain that tough choices have to be made. (Demanding money from the feds, that’s easy.) A year into office, Murphy knows there are no easy (or painless) answers.

So, it’s easy to point fingers at the feds and say, “You have to fix this.” There are a few issues in New Jersey we know fall into the same category. Ignoring them won’t make them go away. Or correct the problem. It will only lead to great regret.