Two weeks ago, I helped dedicate the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which bypasses the narrow, two-lane road atop the Hoover Dam. It is a marvel of engineering, the longest bridge of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and it rests on the tallest precast concrete columns ever fashioned.
Staring up at this monument to human ingenuity, almost 1,000 feet off the ground, I could not help but feel inspired. This bridge is more than the cement and steel that ties Nevada to Arizona. It is a symbol of a great nation that does great things.
In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big. We invest for the future, not just in spite of challenges, but as the means of overcoming them. After all, we constructed the Hoover Dam and Golden Gate Bridge during the worst depression of our history. And we planned and paved America’s state-of-the-art interstate highway system in the aftermath of World War II.
Against the backdrop of these enduring legacies, Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing. Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole.
Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere.
Especially during this time of economic hardship, we owe it to our friends and neighbors to rebuild our infrastructure — and to spur economic development, bolster competitiveness and strengthen millions of American families and businesses. We owe it to future generations to build more, not fewer, projects like the ARC tunnel.
From the day President Obama invited me to join his cabinet, I have been honored to serve in an administration that is pursuing a bold course of action.
The president has put Americans to work in good-paying jobs on more than 15,000 Recovery Act transportation projects across the country.
He proposed a vision for a national high-speed passenger rail network that, within 25 years, could give 80 percent of Americans the option to travel from city to city by high-speed train. On Labor Day, he unveiled a plan to modernize our air traffic control system, build new roads, rails and runways and establish a national infrastructure bank to finance major investments.
In 1874, Dewitt Clinton Haskin, a former colonel in the Union Army and the president of the Hudson Tunnel Railroad Company, first envisioned an underwater crossing between New Jersey and New York. Between 1908 and 1910, the Hudson & Manhattan and Pennsylvania railroads brought his dream to life. For a century and counting, these tunnels have remained the only train and transit links between the two states.
This week, Christie ensured that will stay the case far into the foreseeable future. As a result, the people of New Jersey and New York will continue to wait on overcrowded platforms and make their way from home to work through an overburdened tunnel, in need of rehabilitation, rather than getting back 45 minutes of every day — 45 minutes to help kids with homework, enjoy a family dinner or watch a Little League game.
Still, this episode suggests something more important: It is not too late for our generation to tap into the spirit of imagination, courage and sacrifice that enabled dreamers and doers like Col. Haskin to shape America into the greatest country in the world.
The president and I believe we can meet our challenges, mile by mile, and leave our children and grandchildren better equipped to meet theirs. We see a light at the end of the tunnel. On behalf of the American people, we will keep digging, fighting and building until we reach it.