For Murphy, aides’ N.J.-D.C. shuttle means more hope for Gateway Tunnel project

Governor sorry to see many from administration leaving for Washington, but hopes transportation adviser White can help on Gateway

Gov. Phil Murphy spoke glowingly of the state-level officials that are heading to Washington, D.C., for roles in President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We’re going to miss all of our (New Jersey officials),” Murphy said. “We are going to have big shoes to fill. The Biden administration has looked to New Jersey to help fill some of the vital roles in Washington. New Jersey has had a big week, I have to say.”

One departure in particular, however, caught his eye.

Vinn White, a chief policy adviser on transportation issues, is going to be the senior adviser for implementation at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Murphy said he can only hope this means more good things for the proposed Gateway Tunnel project.

“Our state’s top infrastructure priority is getting the full Gateway project approved, including the much-needed new rail tunnels under the Hudson River,” he said. “Vinn knows this project and its advantages better than most anyone, and I look forward to his continued efforts on behalf of our state and our commuters.”

This isn’t White’s first tour in Washington — he served as deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy in President Barack Obama’s administration. Murphy said that experience already helped the state.

“I can’t put it any other way: The progress we have made in improving our transportation infrastructure and in turning around NJ Transit has all been in large part due to Vinn’s work,” he said. “He helped us get the new Portal Bridge project through its final phases and he helped create NJ Transit’s 10-year long-range plan.”

Speaking at his COVID-19 briefing, Murphy noted some of the other New Jersey officials heading for roles in the federal government.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson is joining the White House COVID-19 response team, and Justin Dews, a former counsel to Murphy, will now serve as a counsel to Biden.

And Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul Rodriguez has been chosen as the new deputy counsel to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“For the past nearly three years, Paul has been a strong and tireless advocate for our state’s most vulnerable residents,” Murphy said. “His expertise has been crucial throughout the past 10-plus months of the pandemic. I’m extremely grateful for all Paul has done for our state and protecting our consumers.”