Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

The Trentonian – Calling on Gov. Chris Christie to address the state’s
crumbling infrastructure, Sen. President Stephen Sweeney referenced a
handful of cars that approached the Nottingham Way Bridge and made a
U-turn once they realized it was closed.

“How many cars have gone down this road and had to turn around?” the
Democratic leader asked at a press conference Thursday at the bridge.
“These are the basic necessities that we have to provide as
government. People have to be assured that your transportation is
safe.”

The bridge was closed in July 2013 after receiving a sufficiency
rating of 2, which is one point shy of the worst possible rating.

“I’m a little large for this bridge,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester) joked.
“I’m not even comfortable standing on the damn thing, and I’ve built
bridges.”

Though Mercer County officials secured state monies to fix the bridge,
Sweeney criticized Christie’s administration for failing to provide
funding through another avenue, New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund
(TTF).

“Our Transportation Trust Fund is broke,” he said. “You’re supposed to
plan ahead and not rely on the county to go get funding. The state is
supposed to maintain these bridges and highways and provide funding to
them, not wait until they get a rating of 2 and it has to be shut
down.”

Sweeney added Christie has not offered one proposal to fund the system
in his four and a half years in office.

“We’re going to continue this until the governor puts forward a plan
to show us how we’re going to fund the TTF,” Sweeney said of his state
tour of visiting crumbling infrastructure sites. “The governor doesn’t
want to address it for one reason: This is a real tough issue that’s
not going to go away.”

Sweeney (D-Gloucester) was joined at the event by State Sen. Shirley
Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon), Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and
freeholders Andrew Koontz and Pasquale “Pat” Colavita, Jr.

Turner highlighted the need for the bridge, which connects Hamilton to
Trenton, to be open.

“It is the gateway to many communities,” she said. “We know how
important it is here in the city of Trenton in order to have gateways
to municipalities like Hamilton Township, one of the largest townships
in the state and the largest township in this county.”

Mercer County estimates the project — funded by $1.7 million in bridge
bonds and $800,000 in the state’s Annual Transportation Program — to
cost a total of $2.5 million.

Construction for the bridge — built in 1922, and rehabbed in 1947 — is
expected to begin early next year.

“We know that the Transportation Trust Fund is on its way out of
money,” Hughes said. “We are here on this bridge today because if we
did not get money … this bridge would have to stay closed literally
forever.”

Turner believes if the TTF is funded, jobs will be created statewide.

“Common sense tells you that if we were to devote the money necessary
to rebuild these bridges, we would put thousands of people back to
work, and not just making minimum wage,” she stated. “These will be
wages that support a family.”

Sweeney would like to see more than $1 billion added to the TTF.

“The point is to make sure we get enough money into the fund, so that
we can actually meet our needs, not put a Band-Aid on it,” he
exclaimed. “To shut roads like this down has major impacts on
communities.”

Christie’s office did not return a message asking for comment.

Citing that almost 10 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally
deficient, Sweeney plans to continue his tour after making the
Nottingham Way Bridge, which spans the Assunpink Creek, his fourth
stop.

“The reality is this is not acceptable in a state like New Jersey,” he
said. “This isn’t a South Jersey problem, it’s not a Central Jersey
problem, it’s not a North Jersey problem, it’s our problem as the
state of New Jersey. We collectively have to work together.”