TRENTON – More than 30 members of the public lambasted the New Jersey Turnpike Authority at its monthly meeting Tuesday in the wake of revelations that the projected cost to build an expanded Newark Bay extension more than doubled to over $10 billion.

The project wasn’t on the authority’s agenda but was almost the sole focus of the open-mic public comment part of the meeting after recently released minutes from the October meeting showed the updated outlook for the project’s cost in the annual budget.

John Reichman of Empower New Jersey called the price tag astounding, absurd and shocking – but not surprising, as skeptics had long doubted the earlier $4.7 billion projection.

“The new $10.7 billion cost projection must be the death knell for this project,” Reichman said.

“In two years the cost has ballooned from $4.7 (billion) to over $10 billion,” said environmental activist David Pringle. “That’s not inflation. That’s extortion, corruption, fraud.”

“In light of the exorbitant new costs that have come to light, this project needs to come to a complete halt now,” said Chris Adair, president of Bike Hoboken. “The idea that we should be expanding this 8-mile stretch of highway to the tune of over $10 billion is completely absurd.”

The plan to build a wider Newark Bay extension has come under criticism, including by Hudson County elected officials, from the idea’s origination. Critics say it will just put more cars on the road leading into the bottleneck at the Holland Tunnel and aggravate air-quality issues caused by car emissions.

“By continuing with this project, Gov. Murphy and the Turnpike Authority are not only committing climate arson but are actively participating in the manslaughter of our vulnerable populations,” said Jersey City resident Tyler Newcomb.

Reichman said it would cost $260 million to repair the North Bay bridge, work that he said is mostly completed, and $276 million to replace or repair the three additional elevated structures that the authority’s engineering consultant found to have immediate structural issues.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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