Amy On The Issues
Rebuilding South Jersey’s Infrastructure
Infrastructure investment is one of the best ways to boost our economy, create good-paying union jobs, and attract and support local businesses. Yet for four years, Congressional Republicans have done nothing to advance it. I will work every day to secure the major infrastructure investments South Jersey needs—in our roads, rail, and bridges; our bulkheads, seawalls, and levees; and our drinking water systems, schools, and electric grid.
Now is a critical time to act. The COVID-19 crisis has devastated our district, and much more relief is needed for our economy to recover. Congress must make take action to create good-paying jobs, increase resiliency, and help our communities “build back better.” Infrastructure investments satisfy all of those goals—and fighting for them will be one of my top priorities in Congress.
Roads, Bridges, and Rail
New Jersey has more than 39,000 miles of roadways, enough to circle the equator 1.5 times. Our high volume of use means we spend more on our roads than any other state. And nearly one in ten of our more than 6,600 bridges are structurally deficient; almost one in four are functionally obsolete.
In order for South Jersey to clear our maintenance backlog, make upgrades, reduce congestion, and increase resiliency, federal leadership is essential. But Congress has long relied on short-term, patchwork transportation bills that don’t provide the level of investment we need. In Congress, I will fight for bold and consistent federal investments in our roads, bridges, and rail systems. These investments should be made directly to states; to the cities and counties that oversee our roads; and through competitive grant programs that support strong regional transportation systems. They should also seek to reduce traffic and pollution, connect working families with economic opportunities, support local businesses, and revitalize communities through innovation and smart regional planning.
South Jersey’s public transportation infrastructure was under enormous strain even before COVID-19. Though transit ridership has grown dramatically in recent years, capacity has not, and Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to transit infrastructure that communities are still working to repair. Our region remains underserved by NJ Transit, especially in more rural counties, limiting mobility and making it difficult for many residents to access jobs and public services.
There is no question that greater coordination and connectivity is needed between public transit agencies at the state level. But Congress must also boost funding for our transit systems, both to help them survive the pandemic and to help our economy build back better. I will fight for flexible federal investments that support new and existing rail and bus lines, connect commuters to work and school, and provide more frequent and reliable transit service.
We are incredibly fortunate to have the William Hughes Technical Center in our district. This world-class aviation research and development facility is home to the Federal Aviation Administration’s research and development efforts and anchors New Jersey’s Aviation Research Triangle. It is also the primary support facility for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen—the cutting-edge federal program to modernize air travel and make it safer, more efficient, and more predictable.
For years, Congress relied on short-term extensions to fund the FAA. That is not sustainable, especially in light of COVID-19’s devastating impact on the aviation industry. The industry supported $1.5 trillion in economic activity and over 10 million U.S. jobs before the pandemic hit. We need to make sure the FAA can modernize and support the aviation industry’s recovery and continued growth. I will be a champion of FAA and the Hughes Technical Center in Congress.
Climate change poses an existential threat to our district. Our homes, businesses, beaches, and parks are already at risk and our economy relies on fragile coastal ecosystems to support fishing and tourism industries. While we have made difficult and important progress since Superstorm Sandy, there is far more we need to do to increase the resiliency of our coastal communities.
In Congress, I will fight for the infrastructure South Jersey needs to protect our shoreline. We need continued federal investment to repair and replace bulkheads, seawalls, dams, and levees to prevent and minimize the damage from floods and storms. We need federal support for more localized mitigation measures such as pumping stations and tide valves. We need to preserve and restore beaches and other coastal habitats that serve as natural buffers to storm surges and waves. And we need to make resiliency a priority every time we repair or upgrade our infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, and public buildings.
I will also provide leadership to reform and strengthen the national flood insurance system. We saw the current system’s shortcomings after Superstorm Sandy: insurance companies’ denied far too many families’ claims, in part due to mismanagement and abuse. I will fight for a stronger, affordable, and more sustainable flood insurance program that protects family homes and businesses in case disaster strikes.
Clean Drinking Water
Access to clean water is a human right, one that I will always fight to protect in Congress. I want to make sure South Jersey is a safe and healthy community where all children have the opportunity to succeed and thrive. In Congress, I will work to secure the flexible funding states and communities need to repair water pipelines and sewer systems and replace lead service lines. I will also work to protect our drinking water from dangerous chemicals and pollutants. New Jersey is, for example, among the states most impacted by poly or perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemical contamination. These chemicals are long-lived and have been linked to certain cancers, problems with fetus development, and immune system and thyroid disruption.
Approximately 1.6 million New Jerseyans have been exposed to elevated PFOA and PFOS levels, including many people in South Jersey. Elevated levels have been found in the drinking water systems of Gloucester, West Depford, Paulsboro, and Atlantic City. I am proud of our recent state’s efforts to address contamination by setting strict drinking water standards. And I will support federal legislation, like the PFAS Action Act, to set long overdue national standards for these dangerous substances, make polluters pay for the damage they have caused, and provide funding to New Jersey and our water supply companies for testing and treatment.
South Jersey’s energy infrastructure, farming, and shore tourism interests are uniquely vulnerable to climate change. Transitioning to renewable and low-carbon fuels will set an example for other states to follow while protecting our shores and farmland for generations to come. As we accelerate that transition, we also need to upgrade our energy infrastructure to make it more resilient to rising sea levels, floods, and coastal storms.
I will fight for investments that give states, local communities, and the private sector the support and flexibility they need to address climate change and make our electricity system stronger and more reliable. By settings bold standards to reduce emissions from buildings, industrial sources, electric utilities, and cars and trucks, we can leverage every sector of our economy to meet our climate and energy goals.
Fortunately, New Jersey is already leading the way toward 100% clean energy. Atlantic City is poised to be home to New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm, the Orsted wind development, which will provide more than half a million New Jersey homes with renewable power. And Artificial Island in Salem County has been selected as the staging area where the turbines and other components of the wind farms will be assembled. This creates a tremendous job opportunity for South Jersey. I will be working hard to provide for the transportation and warehousing infrastructure and the job training needed to make South Jersey the hub for this new industry.
And Governor Murphy has put forward a bold plan for reducing emissions and deploying renewable energy. This will involve investment in clean energy and transportation infrastructure, like building charging stations and infrastructure for electric vehicles, expanding offshore wind production, and making buildings and housing more energy efficient. These investments will create high-paying jobs in our district and make our economy cleaner, stronger, and more competitive.
Broadband is fundamental to a modern, competitive economy. Yet too many families in South Jersey cannot afford to access it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that means that thousands of our neighbors can’t work remotely, can’t access health care, and can’t easily participate in online learning.
In Congress, I will fight to close New Jersey’s digital divide. That will require greater federal investments in broadband infrastructure, especially in rural areas. I support the recent House-passed Invest in America Act that provides subsidies to promote broadband expansion into underserved communities. I also support efforts to foster greater competition among broadband companies, so that everyone has access to a low-cost provider in their community. By increasing subsidies to help families purchase high-speed internet and doing more to help states increase adoption, we can achieve universal broadband access in South Jersey.
One of the most important and effective infrastructure investments we can make is in our public education system. Our schools are aging, and many are unsafe and unhealthy, especially in rural communities and in communities of color. Others are not equipped with modern technology and should be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency and climate resilience. And every school district needs help updating ventilation systems and making the other changes necessary for safe, socially-distanced learning.
That is why I have called for immediate, additional federal aid to state and local governments, both to ensure that schools can reopen safely and to provide the digital infrastructure needed for remote education. I also support the Rebuild America’s Schools Act as part of a future recovery package. This important legislation will invest more than $100 billion to rebuild crumbling schools while creating nearly two million good-paying jobs. And I will fight to protect existing jobs in our public schools throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting recession has put an enormous strain on state and local government budgets and federal leadership is needed to protect teachers, staff, and services as our economy recovers.
Senior Housing and Care Facilities
Senior care facilities like nursing homes, continuous care facilities, assisted living facilities, and age-restricted housing need to expand to meet the needs of our growing senior population. This presents an opportunity for South Jersey, where costs are lower than other parts of the state. Rowan University also has a new medical school that could play a role in staff training. I will push for greater investments in long-term care—and take a hard look at existing federal assistance programs that can better assist in the construction and safe operation of these facilities.
Together, these infrastructure investments represent an historic investment in American communities. To maximize its impact, each investment must be made in a way that supports local businesses and creates good-paying middle class jobs. Federally-funded infrastructure investments should always support union workers, American manufacturers, and apprenticeship programs. They should also protect our frontline transportation workers, who work in increasingly dangerous environments and whose jobs are threatened by the COVID-19 recession. I will work every day to build up our vital transportation networks, support and protect the essential workers who keep these systems running, and secure the major investments we need for our district.