Joined by Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere, President of Maher Terminals Brian Maher and Secretary-Treasurer of the International Longshoreman's Association Local 1235, Vincent Aulisi, Governor James E. McGreevey laid the first piece of track for the first phase of a new $70 million ship-to-rail facility at the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal. "This new rail facility represents just a small portion of the approximately $4.4 billion in public and private sector investments being spent to maintain the port as the East Coast's leading destination for international shippers," said McGreevey. "The port is creating jobs, stimulating the economy and making it possible to improve the transportation infrastructure while protecting and preserving the environment." McGreevey today met with New Jersey's maritime industry leaders to update them on progress on the Port's ambitious redevelopment program, including plans to build new rail facilities, dredge harbor channels, strengthen wharfs and provide additional space for cargo container storage. "This past year, our cargo volumes in the port grew by 13 percent," said McGreevey. "By upgrading these facilities, we will ensure that our port can handle future growth in cargo activity, which supports more than 225,000 port-related jobs and $14.6 billion in economic activity in the region." The rail facility is on a 70-acre site that will straddle the reconfigured Maher and APM terminals. It will have the ability to handle up to one million containers a year when fully operational. The first 50 acres of the new terminal is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2004. The second and final phase of the larger facility's construction will be built under a separate contract and be completed by the end of 2005. The new intermodal rail terminal will replace an existing facility at Maher Terminals. The existing rail facility set a new record in 2002, handling 228,000 containers. (more) "The Port Authority understands the important role the port plans in the everyday lives of approximately 18 million people in the region," said Coscia. "We committed $1 billion to port infrastructure improvements over the next five years, and will continue that aggressive level of investment in the future." New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley C. Campbell said, "Projects like this new ship-to-rail terminal will greatly improve the environment and the quality of life for New Jersey residents. In addition, the Port Authority just launched a new barge service that will use that means of transportation to move some cargo on and off the port. By reducing the reliance on trucks to transport cargo from the ship to the marketplace, we will cut down on truck emissions and improve air quality for all of us." McGreevey also announced an $80 million NJ Department of Transportation initiative designed to increase freight movement on existing rail freight lines and slow the growth of truck traffic on New Jersey's highways. Included in the plan - the largest investment in our state's freight rail infrastructure in New Jersey's history - are a series of improvements to several rail freight lines and yards throughout the state. "This rail freight program will spur economic activity, create jobs and facilitate the efficient movement of goods throughout the State," said McGreevey. "The initiative also increases safety on the State's highways by ensuring that truck traffic does not expand along with the products docked and transported from our ports." Over the next 20 years, growth in rail and truck freight is estimated to grow by 90 percent. Currently 13% of all freight leaves Port Elizabeth by rail, but with improvements the volume will increase to 25%. "A 10-car freight train can haul the equivalent of 600 trucks," said Lettiere. "By improving our freight rail infrastructure we can reduce congestion on our highways, improve our air quality and improve the quality of life for all New Jerseyans."