How New Jersey Will Spend $10.7 Billion to Make Traffic Worse

The state's highway expansion plan to add a few more lanes completely ignores that the Holland Tunnel only has two lanes in each direction.

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The surface street approach to the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City
The surface street approach to the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City
Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez (Getty Images)

The plan to expand a vital 8.1-mile section of the New Jersey Turnpike, the Newark Bay–Hudson County Extension, is destined to fail. However, New Jersey’s government can’t stop itself from driving into the Hudson River. The project’s projected cost has exploded from $4.7 billion to $10.7 billionadding added capacity between Newark Liberty International Airport and New York City which will plummet the surrounding area’s already terrible air quality. Also, the expansion won’t reduce congestion.

From west to east, the Newark Bay–Hudson County Extension crosses the Newark Bay Bridge into Bayonne and Jersey City. The highway turns north before passing Liberty National Golf Club and Liberty State, then the extension becomes an elevated roadway as it flies past residential neighborhoods in Jersey City. The highway swings westward just before dumping traffic onto a surface street approach to the Holland Tunnel, which crosses underneath the Hudson River into Lower Manhattan.

The New York Times stated the expansion project would replace the four-lane Newark Bay Bridge with an eight-lane crossing. The rest of the extension would be widened to six lanes. The approach to the Holland Tunnel would be renovated but unchanged. Putting the concept of induced demand aside, any expansion would only make congestion worse. The Holland Tunnel is a fixed bottleneck. Any travel headed into New York City has to funnel down into the Holland Tunnel’s two eastbound lanes.

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The narrow confines of the Holland Tunnel
The narrow confines of the Holland Tunnel
Photo: Rod Morata (Getty Images)

The elevated sections of the Turnpike are aging and need to be replaced, but using it as an opportunity for expansion is extremely misguided. Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, came into office with goals of improving the state’s public transit and reducing emissions. Though, Governor Murphy supports the project despite the environmental concerns. The residential areas around the highway already have an F grade for air quality from the American Lung Association. Murphy believes that the spread of electric cars would reduce emissions on the roadway, a convenient excuse to push the emissions burden to someone else.

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Along with Governor Murphy, the container shipping industry in Bayonne is a massive backer of the project. Just south of Liberty National Golf Club is Port Jersey, a sprawling intermodal freight transport facility capable of accommodating Suez Max container ships. The industry is pushing for highway expansion to handle more truck traffic in and out of the terminal.

The project is scheduled to have plans finalized next year and construction is slated to begin in 2026. Governor Phil Murphy has the power to amend the project’s plans. However, his open opposition to New York’s congestion pricing plans showing that his only idea for fixing traffic is simply adding more lanes.