The House Appropriations Committee, of which Rothman is a member, approved the Transportation Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2003, which also includes $100,000 to help relieve traffic congestion on Route 17 and $4.5 million to develop the Light Rail in Bergen County.
"In the war on terrorism, in which security checks are one of our first lines of defense, it is absolutely critical that we prevent fake IDs from being issued to anyone, especially into the hands of those who seek to do us harm," said Rothman, who noted that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers had improperly obtained New Jersey driver's licenses for use as identification. "While it is still a major problem that needs to be addressed, we are no longer just talking about stopping underage kids from getting a fake ID to purchase alcohol. This is a matter of national security. These funds will go directly toward improving the physical security of New Jersey's DMV sites to catch and stop those who are perpetrating acts of fraud and endangering the lives of countless New Jerseyans and Americans."
With dozens of indictments handed down against individuals accused of fraudulently selling New Jersey DMV documents, including driver's licenses, learner's permits, and vehicle titles, Rothman worked with his fellow members of the House Appropriations Committee to secure the funds for New Jersey's DMV physical security. The federal dollars will help pay for the installation of new alarm systems, security cameras, better locks, panic buttons, and other safety measures. Rothman is continuing to pursue additional means of securing funds for New Jersey's DMV security, including obtaining other federal grants.
Also included in the Transportation Appropriations bill is $100,000 to assist with plans to relieve Route 17 traffic congestion. Potential solutions that will be examined include the widening of Passaic Street, new traffic signals, and realignment of the Route 17 off ramp. Additionally, the measure provides $4.5 million for engineers to proceed with plans for the development of light rail in Bergen County. The engineers will examine ways to link existing commuter rail corridors, highways, and bus service with a Bergen Light Rail network. An important component of this initiative is the development of plans for rail/highway transfer hubs that would allow motorists to get off the highways and onto railways in an effort to reduce roadway congestion.
"These funds will allow engineers to develop the best plan to alleviate Route 17 traffic congestion, and relieve the frustration that thousands of New Jersey residents experience each day as they are stuck in their cars waiting for traffic to let up," Rothman said. "Furthermore, as one of the most densely populated regions in the entire country, Northeastern New Jersey is very much in need of light rail to relieve congestion on our roads and to improve the quality of life for Bergen and Hudson County residents. These funds will take us another step closer to unclogging our roadways, and providing new rail service options for New Jersey's commuters."
The Transportation Appropriations bill is one of 13 spending bills that Congress is required to pass each year. The measure now moves to the House floor for a vote. The full Senate also needs to vote on its version of the measure. Following Congressional approval, the bill moves to the White House, where it needs to be signed by the president to become law.
$35 Million For Meadowlands
As part of his ongoing effort to utilize all of the available federal resources to preserve and restore the 8,400 undeveloped acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands, Rothman managed get Congress to increase funding for wetlands acquisition and remediation in the Meadowlands to $35 million, seven times its current level.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2002 (WRDA), which includes language authorizing Congress to approve funds to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue its efforts to acquire Meadowlands open space from willing sellers at fair market value as well as to remediate the wetlands.
"[This] approval of this authorization measure, with a funding level that is seven times the current level, signifies that my fellow House colleagues are getting the message loud and clear that protecting and restoring the Meadowlands is an environmental priority for the people of Northeastern New Jersey," said Rothman.
Under the measure, the U.S. Army Corps, in conjunction with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, would be authorized to develop and carry out an Environmental Improvement Program in which they could acquire land. Additionally, the Army Corps would focus on remediating three specific sites within the Meadowlands: the Kearny Marsh, Oritani Marsh, and land surrounding Secaucus High School. Furthermore, the measure authorizes funds for water quality monitoring, tide gate improvement and construction to control flooding, and the research and development of a water quality improvement program. Once authorization receives final passage, Congress still must appropriate the funding.
Rothman, a lifelong resident of Bergen County, has made the preservation of the 8,400 undeveloped acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands separate from the Arena/Giants Stadium property a top priority. He has been the leader of the effort to spare the presently undeveloped land from development with the intention of turning it into an environmental park with opportunities for eco-canoe trips, nature walks, bird watching, other appropriate recreational activities, and an environmental educational center for children.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2002 next moves to the House floor where the full chamber will vote on it. The Senate needs to consider its own version of the measure. Congress last approved a WRDA bill that included language pertaining to the Meadowlands in 1992 when it authorized $5 million.
Rothman celebrates opening of Hackensack Riverkeeper's new headquarters
Rothman joined Captain Bill Sheehan and Hackensack Mayor Jack Zisa last week for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new Hackensack Riverkeeper outreach office located at 231 Main Street in Hackensack.
"Hackensack Riverkeeper, led by Captain Sheehan, has been a great mentor and partner as we continue to work toward the preservation and restoration of the 8,400 undeveloped acres of the Meadowlands," Rothman said. "With its new office, Hackensack Riverkeeper's staff and volunteers will now be in an even more effective position to continue their work to protect and clean the Hackensack River and the Meadowlands."
Hackensack Riverkeeper began its mission to protect, preserve, and restore the Hackensack River in 1997 after receiving its charter from the international Waterkeeper Alliance, based in White Plains, N.Y.