America's crumbling public infrastructure has degenerated to the point that desperate Americans are turning to crowd-funding to try and pitch in - anything to ease the pain of their hellish daily commute.
One anonymous resident of the Garden State recently started a GoFundMe page to raise money for replacing the Portal Bridge, the 108-year-old Amtrak-owned railroad bridge over the Hackensack River that is a crucial chokepoint for Jersey commuters traveling to their offices in New York City.
The fundraising goal? $920 million.
Though the campaign was intended as a tongue-in-cheek joke about the misery of traveling on New Jersey transit - the individual who launched it listed their name as "Sad New Jersey Commuter" from Clifton, NJ - the sentiment clearly resonated with the 200,000 commuters who cross the bridge every day and the post quickly went viral.
As the anonymous author pointed out in their post, New Jersey approved bond financing to start building a replacement for the Portal Bridge earlier this year. Yet, more funding is needed to finish the project. Hence, the crowd-funding drive. The author also joked that they added $20 million in "oversight" funding to create some cushion for when the project inevitably blows through its budget.
"We’ve already come up with $600 Million already approved in bond financing in June of 2018, will only require $920,000,000!" the organizer wrote. "Yeah, I added 20 Million in oversight funding, but we are going to totally chew through that in no time, when this goes massively over budget."
As Bloomberg pointed out, train traffic over the Portal is often delayed because the bridge swings to clear the way for ships sailing through the river. Sometimes - particularly during the summer - the swing mechanism will malfunction, causing the bridge to get stuck. Crews are then called to hammer it back into place with sledgehammers.
The bridge over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus swings to accommodate maritime traffic. In extreme temperatures, though, it’s prone to closing incorrectly and crews sometimes must smack it into place with sledgehammers. The swing mechanism malfunctioned most recently on Oct. 30, causing 90-minute delays. On Nov. 14, a tugboat bonked into the bridge, forcing back-ups of at least an hour while inspectors checked for damage.
A spokesman for the agency tasked with replacing the bridge said its replacement has been designed and approved, and that construction on the project is already underway.
When approached by Bloomberg, he welcomed the GoFundMe effort.
Steve Sigmund, spokesman for Gateway Development Corp., said the replacement bridge is designed, has regulatory approvals and some construction underway, and a $600 million state funding commitment.
“The more 200,000 daily passengers are focused on replacing this 108-year-old, one-track- in, one-track-out system, the better chance we have of getting the most vital transportation infrastructure project in the country done,” Sigmund said in an email.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit said in an email that "We appreciate the public’s interest in this vital project."
Though we doubt the shambolic state of vital American infrastructure (including bridges, highways, railways and roads) will sufficiently move Democrats to cooperate with President Trump on a badly needed infrastructure plan (as the many investigations they have planned will almost certainly be a higher priority).
And remember: Amazon is getting billions in tax breaks to build a helipad on top of their Queens headquarters, while the subway sinks into disrepair and the tunnels under the Hudson River have degraded to dangerous levels.