The actual impact of President Donald Trump’s tweet about the Portal North Bridge — a tweet that came at 11:20 Friday night — is not completely clear.
After all, the president does not directly control the funding of infrastructure projects. That ability lies with Congress.
But, for Jerry Zaro, one of the state’s three trustees of the Gateway Development Corp., the tweet meant everything.
“It is confirmation of the signals we have been getting from the (Department of Transportation),” he told ROI-NJ. “Obviously, it still leaves the funding for the tunnel up in the air, but at least we seem to be moving in a positive direction.”
Whether the federal government ultimately gives the needed funded for the tunnel or not, just fixing the Portal Bridge will have huge impact, Zaro said.
“It is the single largest choke point in the system,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter what we do with the rest of the system if the bridge keeps failing. This had to be done and, obviously, it’s welcome news by the whole Gateway Corp.
“It’s a very positive step and we’d like to think it will lead the way to the tunnel.”
Zaro, a partner at Sills Cummis & Gross in Newark, gave credit to Gov. Phil Murphy — who dined with Trump in Bedminster on Friday night.
“We really have to give credit on this to Gov. Murphy and his leadership,” he said. “He was tireless in advocating for this Portal North Bridge. That leadership and the work that has been done at (New Jersey) Transit under the leadership of Kevin Corbett really helped us get to this point. It has not been an easy task.”
Zaro hopes the ultimate step is coming next. And feels the Gateway Tunnel would be the most pressing need of an infrastructure-based stimulus package.
“You can’t talk about infrastructure in this country — the projects that are available to create the jobs that we so sorely need — without the tunnel being part of the discussion,” he said. “And wouldn’t it be great to spend all that money and have something to show for it.
“I don’t want to use the comparison of the public works projects that Roosevelt had during the Depression, but it certainly helped us get out of it — and, at the end of it, you had things that are still standing and working for us today.”
It’s some of those projects — and the infrastructure projects that followed — that now need updating, he said.
“You don’t need to be an engineer to see the deplorable conditions of our roadways,” he said. “From my old hat as chairman of the (New Jersey) Turnpike Authority, I look at these roads in disbelief. So, there’s so much we can do and put money to good use while creating jobs. To me, it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Zaro is hopeful that started with the tweet.
“We had never got anything like this before,” he said. “He had never tweeted about it. And we even got it with an exclamation point.”
…rebuilding America’s infrastructure with projects like the Portal North Bridge, which I have given authorization to proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2020