Pete Buttigieg got high marks from U.S. senators Thursday during his confirmation hearing to be the next secretary of transportation. Even a Republican, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said, “I look forward to your confirmation.”
But, while Buttigieg impressed the senators with his knowledge on a variety of issues involving transportation, he politely ducked the only question anyone in New Jersey wants answered: Will he support the Gateway Tunnel project?
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, asked him for a commitment to the $30 billion infrastructure that will add additional tunnels from New Jersey to New York City while repairing the more than 100-year-old tunnels that are in use today.
“Yes, I’ve heard this loud and clear, from you and your counterparts in the region, and look forward to working together with you on this,” he said.
So, not a “Yes.” But not a “No.”
This, of course, is not a surprise. The decision ultimately is up to new President Joe Biden and the Congress. New Jersey officials, however, are cautiously optimistic about the project’s chances — after four years of stalling by the previous administration.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spoke with Buttigieg on Jan. 5 and said he came away impressed by Buttigieg’s knowledge of the situation.
“I don’t want to put words in the mayor’s mouth, but he was completely aware and had been read into that,” Murphy said at the time.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, indicated transportation and infrastructure can be used to help battle the impact of climate change, saying it would be a central feature of any infrastructure package.
Buttigieg said there is a window of opportunity to combine infrastructure with sustainability.
New tunnels to New York City — ones that would take cars off the road — would seemingly mesh with that mission.