GoFundMe aims to raise $920 million for new Portal Bridge
KEARNY — After more than a century of helping commuters get from New Jersey into New York a disgruntled commuter has started a fundraising effort to help speed up a replacement for the Portal Bridge.
A GoFundMe page, established by a user identified only as "Sad Jersey Commuter," seeks to raise a modest $920 million to replace the bridge. Through three days the page has raised $20 of that lofty goal.
"We, the residents, commuters, and visitors of New Jersey, are taking matters into our own hands," the GoFundMe page says. "We will no longer stand idly by and continue to suffer substandard public transportation."
On its website, Amtrak said it has worked with NJ Transit to complete "final design and federal environmental review" for a new bridge to cross the Hackensack River. The rail company said around 450 trains cross the bridge on a daily basis. A new bridge would cost around $1.5 billion, according to Amtrak.
Just last month the bridge was the source of significant delays, when a tug boat nearly stuck the 108-year-old span. A spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard told New Jersey 101.5 at the time that Amtrak halted service after the incident to ensure that the boat had in fact missed the bridge.
The replacement of the bridge seemed like a real possibility last year when officials gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of what would be the first of two new bridges. The project has run into several problems since then, including concerns from the Trump administration, which has significantly slowed momentum on both sides of the river.
Since taking office, Gov. Phil Murphy has been a proponent of the Gateway Project, which is aimed at improving the commuting infrastructure. When a malfunction of the Portal Bridge back in March caused delays for thousands of commuters Murphy called the problem "completely unacceptable, and most importantly, avoidable."
"New Jersey and New York have already held up our sides of the bargain by committing to fund our fair share," Murphy said at the time. "But, time and time again, the White House and Republican leadership in Congress have failed to understand the critical need for this project to be fully funded."
Even as the biggest portion of the funding remains to be determined, work is beginning on what could be the future of commuting between the two states. NJ Transit committed $600 million in borrowed money to help fund the project, while a $16 million federal grant and a $4 million state match is funding the early work, according to NorthJersey.com.
"The steady progress on early construction work on the Portal North Bridge is proof positive that the Gateway partners have the skill and will to deliver projects on time and on budget," Gateway Development Corp. trustee Jerry Zaro told the website.
Part of the work going on now has included building a steel cage around a cast-iron pipe from the time of the Civil War that provides two-thirds of Jersey City's water.
The GoFundMe creator said they added $20 million in oversight, but added that a project of this scope is going to "totally chew through that in no time, when this goes massively over budget."
"Together, we the people can own 50% of this bridge and start to reclaim our travel," the page said.
A donor identified as "AnonymousFrustratedCommuter" said they contributed $5 to the cause "because I'd rather skip a latte than live in a world where we can't change bad things."
Sad Jersey Commuter did not respond to a message from New Jersey 101.5 seeking comment on the fundraising effort.
Previous reporting by Dan Alexander was included in this report