Issue 528 May 3, 2006

Jersey's 2007 Budget Boosts Cycling, Walking, Bridge Repair

The New Jersey Dept. of Transportation released its $1.6 billion Capital Program to the public in mid-April, just hours before Commissioner Kris Kolluri gave the keynote address to the annual transportation conference in Atlantic City. 

   Highlights of the program include a 3% cap of total spending on highway capacity expansion with concomitantly high levels of repair and maintenance outlays, and a near doubling of pedestrian and bicycle funding. However, about 35% of the bike/ped money is from one-time congressional allocations, rather than more sustained funding sources.  The budget also doubles the allocation for the popular transit village program to $2 million.

   Overall, the program allocates 46% towards road and bridge reconstruction (up from 42% last year), 16% for local aid (up from 15%) and 13% to congestion relief projects like intersection improvements.  The remainder pays for staffing for the capital program and other categories such as freight-related and traditional road safety projects.

   It is encouraging to see the state further hike road and bridge repair. Since the state set goals for the Transportation Trust Fund in 2000, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to shore up New Jerseys pavement and bridges. But in recent years the number of roads in poor condition has trended upward (MTR #524), so the state must dedicate even more fix-it money in future programs.

   Funding for the controversial Route 206 widening in Byram Township was postponed for at least one year.  Construction is now scheduled for 2008.

   An area where the program falls short is public funding for rail freight projects, which remains static at $10 million. Despite the eye-popping projections for growth in truck traffic in the coming years, the DOT has been slow to roll out rail capacity projects that can directly relieve highway jams.

   Transportation reformers canít ignore that the positive program is built on a mountain of new debt. The state transportation fund would have zeroed out in July, and Governor Corzine and the legislature relied on additional borrowing to avoid raising money. Starting in July 2011,  transportation will be broke again, with billions more in debt to pay off.



MTR #528 in (PDF)
(requires Adobe Acrobat).

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