Mobilizing the Region

Issue 228 July 9, 1999

NJ Bond Act: What's the Deal ? - DOT Should Make Priorities Clear to Taxpayers -

In a letter sent last week, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign requested that Governor Whitman ask the NJ Department of Transportation to enter into a "memorandum of understanding" (MOU) binding revenue from the untethered "statewide transportation" half of the "Statewide Transportation and Local Bridge Bond Act of 1999" to bridge, highway and transit maintenance projects. The MOU would be an explicit compact between the state and NJ voters over what taxpayers will get in return for their money.

NJ Department of Transportation lobbyists succeeded in winning elimination of all mention of bridges from the state-spending portion of the bill (see MTR #226) in Trenton two weeks ago.

A Quinnipiac College poll released last year showed that a large majority of registered New Jersey voters favored spending money on maintenance of existing roadways and public transit and over adding new roadway capacity (see MTR #185). The original wording of the bill conformed perfectly with the "Fix it First" message the Governor set forth in her 21st Century Transportation Vision statement. 21 percent of state-controlled bridges are structurally deficient. DOT has made little progress in advancing bridge repair projects over the past several years; a comparison of its plan for Whitman's 21st Century Vision goals and the NJ DOT Capital Program shows that in the next fiscal year, bridge repair spending will be $100 million short, and the gap will grow in succeeding years. On the other hand, the original bridge bond would have reduced much of the bridge repair backlog in New Jersey.

A memorandum of understanding spelling out the repairs that NJ DOT will make with the bond money would allow the Governor to ensure that her and the State Plan's highest transportation priority - preservation and maintenance - will be treated that way.

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