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Inaction Could Cost Region More than 50,000 Jobs; Permanently Cripple Ports Newark & Elizabeth

(TRENTON) — Assembly members Albert Coutinho, Joan M. Quigley and John S. Wisniewski issued a multimedia package Thursday on legislation sponsored by Coutinho emphasizing the importance of addressing the Bayonne Bridge’s low ship clearance and restoring Ports Newark and Elizabeth’s competitive edge.According to the legislators, when the Panama Canal expansion project is completed in 2014, New Panamax, or Panamax II ships — the largest ships capable of navigating the canal’s locks — will have an air draft in excess of 190 feet, far greater than the Bayonne Bridge’s 151 to 156 foot clearance. The legislation (AR-54) urges the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take swift action to remedy this problem.

The multimedia package consists of a video on the legislation, audio of the same and a transcript of statements from Democratic legislators.

The video can be accessed directly via our Web site — www.assemblydems.com — or by clicking here.

The audio file is available upon request.

A transcript of statements from the legislators is appended below:

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee chair:
“The issue at play here is that in 2015, Panama Canal, which will be done with its widening and deepening project, will allow for what’s called Panamax ships; it’s state of the art ships, which are significantly faster and bigger than existing cargo ships that come into the Port of New York and New Jersey. These ships do not pass under the current Bayonne Bridge. So, if we don’t come up with a funding and engineering solution to resolve that, we stand to lose upwards of 50,000 jobs.”

Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley (D-Hudson):
“Since almost half our goods come to this part of the United States by ship, we’re going to see consumer prices jump up for all sorts of important items.”

Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee chair:
“If the ships can’t get to the port and those containers aren’t offloaded in Newark or Elizabeth, they’re going to go elsewhere. Which means those truck drivers won’t be going to that port to pick up containers. The warehouses that receive those containers will go out of business. There will be no jobs for the people who work in those warehouses. And the list goes on and on. And so in this metropolitan region, you’ll see jobs disappear. You’ll see economic opportunity disappear. And it will be the benefit of somebody else, whether it’s a port in Halifax or in Baltimore or in Virginia.”

“It’s very clear that we are currently at a competitive disadvantage. The risk we face is losing not only current jobs, we’re losing potential jobs because there is going to be anticipated continued growth in port activity. And if we can’t accommodate those bigger ships, which are going to handle a bulk of that new activity, we will also lose future jobs.”

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