The Transportation and Climate Initiative’s main tenant is to curb pollution from cars and trucks, the greatest source of human-made greenhouse gasses. The 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states along with the District of Columbia have been collaborating on TCI for months.

In an interview with Protect Earth Newsmagazine this is what Commissioner Gill had to say about TCI:

This is a critical moment for environmental justice communities in New Jersey, and across the country. President Biden’s commitment to embed environmental justice priorities into their decision-making at all levels of government, including national security, is a major structural change we should be celebrating. The President’s executive orders made it clear that communities suffering from systemic racism, which has manifested in environmental injustice, will receive 40 percent of the benefits of key federal investments in clean energy, clean water, and wastewater infrastructure. He explicitly recognized the issue, and is taking action by starting to right the terrible injustices that communities of color, and low-income communities, have had to endure—having for decades to watch their loved ones become ill or die from greenhouse gasses and industrial pollution simply because of their zip code.

The transportation sector is responsible for more 42 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gasses. It causes asthma, premature deaths, heart and lung disease, and has increased mortality rates from COVID-19. Last October, a study published in Cardiovascular Research, estimated that about 17 percent of COVID-19 deaths, in North America, could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution. A 2019 Union of Concerned Scientists study found on average, communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles than white communities.

While the President’s Climate Plan will help, it won’t pay for all the changes New Jersey has to implement. There is a regional consortium, the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), that we need to join which will work in concert with national plans while bringing in $750 million annually to state coffers. These TCI twelve Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, along with the District of Columbia, will be able to invest in a modernized clean, resilient transportation infrastructure to improve health and opportunity outcomes for our communities. Simply put, TCI is focused on curbing greenhouse gas pollution from transportation and its infrastructure, while improving everyone’s quality of life.

According to the Georgetown Climate Center, TCI will help reduce regional pollution by 25 percent, prevent more than 1,000 pollution-related deaths, and generate $10 billion in reduced health costs. Importantly, TCI will prioritize at least 35 percent from proceeds to address the needs of communities suffering from environmental injustice, while ensuring strong labor and workforce development standards, and providing a just transition.  

What attracted me to TCI is the opportunity to advance environmentally friendly transportation projects, particularly in our more densely populated areas that have been subject to devastating environmental injustice. This is key in our response to the climate challenges we face as a state and nation.

A concrete example of one of those projects that could benefit from TCI funding would be our Essex Hudson Greenaway. It’s transformational. Upon completion it would connect 11 miles of old freight rail line, about 1,000 feet wide, stretching from our biggest city of Newark to Jersey City. It would also create a biking and walking trail and promote local economic recovery. It will connect neighboring communities and business districts with parks, improving everyone’s quality of life, while providing a huge environmentally friendly commuting option for residents in one of the most densely populated areas of our state. A few years ago, it was really just a dream, a concept. Now, there’s a tremendous amount of momentum from local elected officials to get started. TCI could make it a reality. But first, Governor Murphy needs to officially sign the Memorandum of Understanding that binds this consortium together.

History shows that the federal government is more likely to fund projects that are shovel ready—projects that have undergone studies, necessary preparation and have community and stakeholder support. TCI potential member states, and DC have been working on ways to collaborate on regional projects for years. The sooner we sign onboard, the sooner we’ll be ready when the Biden administration asks about which shovel ready projects should be funded—that will bring transit equity for all the people of our great state.

The economy needs to rebound from the issues we’ve experienced in 2020. TCI will give us a chance to provide environmental protections and opportunities for the communities that are being hardest hit by the pandemic. We have a moral obligation to prioritize investments in these communities and also establish oversight through building regional coalitions of elected leaders though TCI, and the federal government.

By joining TCI Governor Murphy will be able to send a clear message to the world that New Jersey has a laser-focus on reducing pollution and injustice in front line communities that have been traditionally victimized by large transportation projects in close proximity to their neighborhoods, while growing our clean energy economy.

TCI is an actionable solution that we can implement right away—it is the path to an equity future.