The U.S. House advanced an amendment that would defund a proposed rock wall project in New Jersey. The proposal now heads to the Senate.
The massive project on I-80 in Warren County, New Jersey has been entangled in controversy for years. It faces opposition from many officials and residents in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"The community that sits next to the beautiful Delaware Water Gap, one of Jersey's greatest natural treasures, believes this rock wall would be ineffective and that it would wreak havoc on the area's ecotourism. I couldn't agree more," said U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, representing New Jersey's 5th District.
The U.S. House passed the amendment introduced by Gottheimer, that would defund the proposed project to build a 60-foot rock wall.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation says the barrier would keep rocks from falling onto I-80 between Hardwick and Knowlton townships. It's a stretch the state says has the highest rock fall hazard rating in New Jersey.
"There are safer, better options," continued Gottheimer.
The amendment would adjust the Federal Highway Administration's budget.
Gottheimer says he's calling for a safer evidence-based, eco-friendly solution.
"He's been fighting behind the scenes, he's been fighting in front of the camera, he's been fighting, fighting, fighting," says Tara Mezzanotte, a founding member of the I-80 Rockfall Fence and Safety Concerns at the Delaware Water Gap Coalition.
On top of concerns about eco-tourism, she says she's also worried about road safety during construction of the proposed project, specifically on the S-curve portion.
"It would be an unsafe situation for our community, unsafe because of the potential traffic backups," continued Mezzanotte.
Mezzanotte says she's not opposed to rockfall mitigation, and that she would like to see a different approach.
"We are against this project because of the harms that will be inflicted upon the community and the environment."