What Redlawsk did not ask about was whether New Jerseyans recognized the high out-of- pocket cost of driving on poor or mediocre roads.
An annual survey by the American Society of Civil Engineers last year found that New Jersey motorists paid an average of $601 in additional repair costs due to driving on structurally unsafe roads -- an estimated total tab of $3.476 billion, which is larger than the total federal and state dollars spent by the TTF not just on highway and bridge projects, but on mass transit as well.
New Yorkers, in contrast, paid an average of $403 in extra repair costs due to poor roads, Pennsylvanians $341, Connecticut motorists $294, and Delaware drivers $257.
“It takes a lot of resources to maintain, improve and expand New Jersey’s transportation networks, and the state has clearly fallen behind by not property tending to these important assets,” New Jersey Policy Perspective warned. “Two-thirds of New Jersey’s roads are of poor or mediocre quality, and 36 percent of the state’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” The same challenges, the study noted.
“Rail service, particularly into and out of New York City, is fragile and prone to delays, as it relies on two Hudson River tunnels operating at more than full capacity,” the report pointed out. “Had the ARC tunnel project to provide an additional rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York City not been aborted in 2010, NJ Transit’s access to Manhattan during peak travel hours would have eventually more than doubled (from 20 to 44 trains).”
New Jersey’s failure to invest adequately in its transportation infrastructure compared to other states is particularly troublesome, given the importance of the state’s transportation network to its economy, MacInnes noted.
New Jersey has the busiest airport and the fourth-busiest port in the nation, 50,000 miles of roads, and almost 7,000 bridges. New Jersey Transit runs the fifth-largest bus system in the nation, with 537,675 daily riders in the past fiscal year.
New Jersey Transit ranks second only to the Long Island Railroad with 302,000 rail passengers on an average weekday, and the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) rail line run by the Port Authority carries 248,100 riders more. That doesn’t include the 73,250 riders on NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line, the Newark Light Rail, and the River Line from Trenton to Camden, or the South Jerseyans who make up the bulk of the 36,300 daily riders on the PATCO Speedline in and out of Philadelphia. Assessing Transportation Needs
“This transportation system is our biggest asset,” MacInnes said. “The problem is that we haven’t done a really serious long-term comprehensive study of what our long-term transportation needs are. The capital plan that the DOT (Department of Transportation) puts our every year is not based on what New Jersey needs, but on what the likely funding stream is for the next 10 years. That’s not going to work.” The Department of Transportation’s current capital plan anticipates no increase in the $1.6 billion a year the state is currently putting into TTF, and “flat funding means you’re losing ground at a rapid pace,” said Robins, a former NJ Transit deputy executive director.
“The problem is that DOT officials don’t want to stick their necks out and make an assessment of what we really need to spend because they know we need revenue to do it, and Christie doesn’t want people to say we need a gasoline tax increase to pay for it,” Robins said.
The New Jersey Policy Perspective was equally scathing in its critique of the failure of both the Corzine and Christie administrations to raise the gas tax.
“What would have happened if either the Corzine or Christie administrations, or both, had chosen to increase the gas tax?” New Jersey Policy Perspective asked. “The Transportation Trust Fund would not be in peril, as it now is. The amount of money borrowed would be less and far less of the current dedicated revenue would be committed to paying off debt. And the ARC tunnel project might be under construction, employing thousands of workers and promising improved access to New York City.
“The failure of the past two administrations over the past eight years to acknowledge and act on the depletion of the Transportation Trust Fund has brought it to its present condition of near bankruptcy: no money for ongoing projects, no authority to issue additional bonds and the expiration of bailout funding from the Port Authority and the Turnpike Authority,” the report concluded.