Christie: ‘I Could Care Less’ What Mayors Think About 518 Bridge Work Delay

Update: Two Republican state legislators from the neighboring 16th District are calling on Gov. Christie to recognize the Route 518 bridge work as “essential,” and free up the money needed to complete it.

State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman and State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli made the announcement Sept. 1.

The bridge “is a critical transportation link that residents and emergency and shared services depend upon,” Bateman said in a press release.

“Our community cannot be held hostage in the interim by Trenton’s inability to act responsibly,” Ciattarelli said in the release.

Original Story: In a stinging rebuttal to efforts by local mayors – including township Mayor Phillip Kramer – to convince his administration to restore funding to complete renovations at the Route 518 bridge, Gov. Chris Christie said that he “could (sic) care less” about what they think about the bridge.

Christi further said the mayors should “get off their rear ends” and tell Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) to help approve an increase in the state gas tax that Christie said would solve the underlying problem.

During a press conference on Monday, Christie was asked what he thought of the Aug. 19 demonstration by Kramer, Millstone Mayor Ray Heck and Rocky Hill Mayor Jeff Donahue – as well as other officials – at the bridge, during which they held up a banner which read, “Christie Fix This Bridge.”

The governor was characteristically blunt in his response.

“Of course, because there’s three democratic mayors, what a shock,” he said, according to a transcript of the conference provided by the Governor’s office. “That three democratic mayors are blaming me for the fact that I was willing to agree to a gas tax increase, that I got the bill along with the Speaker through the Assembly with a bipartisan vote and the Senate wouldn’t support it so that’s my fault. I’m shocked to know that Democratic mayors think that’s my fault.”

“Tell the democratic mayors who are protesting to get off their rear ends, to go to the Senate President’s office, he’s back from being away now and ask him why he won’t pass a bill that 43 democrats out of 52 voted yes on in the State Assembly,” Christie said. “I don’t know, but I could care less what democratic mayors think about a bridge.”

“I told them if there was not an agreement that was come to that that was what’s going to happen,” Christie said, according to the transcript. “We are out of money and they cannot tag it on the governor as much as they’d love to try to because I’m the guy who stayed here 2 o’clock in the morning getting the bill passed through the State Assembly, I’m the first Governor in 27 years who said I would sign a gas tax increase of any amount and so if the Senate doesn’t want to do their job, the Senate doesn’t want to do their job, but let them go to him and I could care less what Democratic mayors think quite frankly.”

Christie was referring to a failed deal to restore funding to the insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, money from which was being used to pay for the reconstruction work on the bridge. State Senate Democrats would not consider a deal he had worked out with the lower House to raise the gas tax, a portion of which would have been targeted to the fund.

Kramer and the other officials have said that delays in fixing the bridge are affecting thousands of local residents, and could pose a health threat because first responders rely on the bridge to get between Franklin and towns on the other side of the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

Part of Christie’s comments were captured on video and posted online by a news organization. In response, Kramer posted his own YouTube video.

In the video, which serves as a “letter” to the governor, Kramer said he understands why Christie would not care about him.

“I’m no one that you should care about,” he said. “But what I know is you care about the thousands and thousands of people who are affected by this and I’m hoping that you can reach out to me and to the other mayors in the area … and do whatever you can to open that bridge as soon as you can.”

Kramer said in the video that the Aug. 19 protest was more about the Executive Order Christie signed that effectively shut down all TTF-funded road work than it was about the fund itself.

“I would have had no probem with the Executive Order, you would have never heard a peep from me, had it come two days earlier,” Kramer said. “But unfortunately the Executive Order to shut down all Transportation Trust Fund construction came two days after the bridge had been shut down, cutting up the major gateway over the river, connecting two towns that are mutually dependent.”

“You then signed another Executive Order allowing for construction in certain projects, but you seem to have neglected this bridge,” Kramer said. “We’re trying to get you to look at this bridge and realize the first responders in our towns need to cross this bridge, and not having it extends the amount of time it takes for regular people to have safe first responder responses.”

“It’s not about me, and it’s not about Democrat or Republican, it’s about the people that I serve and the people that you serve,” Kramer said.

Kramer then offered to meet the governor to talk about the issue.

Kramer said in an email that the reason he did the video is because he is “trying as many ways as possible to reach out to the Governor so that he will hear me. He is the Governor of millions and I am the Mayor of about 65,000 so he might not always hear me, especially since, as he put it, he doesn’t care what I think. I also wanted others to hear what I had to say and I thought doing it in the same medium that he used would be the most effective.”

“I am very hopeful that he will meet with me or allow me to meet with him,” Kramer wrote. “I am hoping he will do it at the bridge so we can see how it is affecting people first-hand. I’ll meet him anywhere, I will do just about anything to get this bridge fixed. People are suffering.”


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