Cyclists were out in force on Saturday as Hudson County residents gathered to decry proposed Turnpike expansion that would not only derail the city from an environmental fairness course, but increase traffic volumes and carbon emissions.
The $4.7 billion project proposed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the NJ Department of Treasury would affect Newark, Bayonne and Jersey City.
The project would be split into three phases, widening the extension to four lanes in both directions, and also replacing exits 14 at Newark and 14A at Bayonne, according to the Newark Bay Hudson County Expansion Needs Assessment and Alternatives Study.
According to the project summary, it would “provide enough traffic lanes to ease congestion and safely and efficiently meet current and future vehicle demand”, establishing the highway’s road structure for the next century.
Last year, Governor Phil Murphy launched a new interim greenhouse emissions reduction target that would invest $33 million in transportation projects to secure Jersey’s clean energy future and protect residents’ quality of life.
On the other hand, the governor has also been a supporter of the controversial expansion of the Turnpike highway to and from Holland Tunnel, as reported by NJ.com.
But locals like Emanuelle Morgan, who came out today, said ‘absurd projects like these are hurting our communities rather than serving them’.
Morgan, who resides in Hudson County, pulled out his bike to encourage residents to advocate for more public transit options instead of expanding I-78, which would “crush more than cars in a tunnel,” she said.
Historically, interstate highways have expanded America’s roads and infrastructure, bringing 90 percent of all US cities with populations over 50,000. Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, intended to eliminate dangerous roads and inept highway structures, and it also had a negative impact on urban communities of color.
More than 475,000 households and more than one million people have been displaced nationwide due to federal highway construction, according to data collected by the US Department of Transportation.
Tyler Newcomb, who is the organizer of NJ Turnpike Trapa coalition against the widening of the city’s toll highway said “not only does this fail to achieve their purported goal of reducing traffic…it’s also going to make our streets more dangerous.”
Hudson County has the highest population density in the state, according to the 2020 census, growing from 634,266 in 2010 to 724,854 in 2020, as reported by the Hudson Reporter.
In a Tweeter made earlier this year, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who opposes the NJTA’s Turnpike expansion project, said, “This proposal would cause more traffic and more pollution in Jersey City. Instead, the investment here for NJ should be in public transit because we have a lot of needs on that front.
City officials and city employees also mobilized alongside residents to reject the project.
“This project is on the wrong side of history,” Jersey City infrastructure manager Barkha Patel said. She said if the state went ahead with this project, it would not only lead to increased traffic, but would “create a vicious circle of traffic that we can’t get out of.”
Jersey City City Council members James Solomon and Frank Gilmore echoed Patel’s frustration, saying they believed the freeway expansion would degrade the community rather than improve it.
Hoboken Fifth Ward Alderman Phil Cohen also attended the rally. He said Hoboken unanimously passed the first resolution against the freeway expansion.
“We breathe the air with you,” Cohen said. “We don’t seek it, we don’t want it.”
Dana Patton, who came out today to protest the bridge expansion in support of her 4-year-old son who attends PS5, a school adjacent to the freeway, said the state’s actions are all simply “inadmissible” and of “great concern.”
She said the surrounding neighborhoods near Mary Benson Park, where the bike rally ended, are historically low-income communities and would be severely impacted by the freeway expansion.
“We literally spend hours every day in this park with our son, with this extension approved, he would completely cut it out,” Patton said.
For updates on this story and others, visit www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Jordan Coll can be reached at [email protected]