Number of the Day: $21.3 billion

June 27, 2013 | Number of The Day

New Jersey needs to invest $21.3 billion — $7.5 billion more than currently planned — in its transportation systems over the next five years if it is to rebound from the Great Recession, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a Garden State think tank.

An investment of that nature will allow New Jersey to exploit its enormous advantages, which include proximity to New York and Philadelphia; vibrant communities with convenient transit and excellent public schools; two globally recognized research universities; and its highly educated workforce (with a higher percentage of scientists and engineers than any other state). The report also recommends a modest boost in the state’s gas tax, which is the third-lowest in the nation, and that counties and municipalities should invest $514 million per year until 2018, which is $300 million more than what is available.

The report chastises the state’s political leadership for considering tax cuts in this environment, and notes that instead of advertising its advantages, Gov. Chris Christie decided to cancel a new rail tunnel to New York and attacked the quality of its public schools while he and other leaders underfunded its colleges and universities and failed to protect and maintain investments in public transportation systems. It also notes that a gas tax increase of a nickel a gallon would cost the average New Jerseyan just $16 more a year and has not been increased since 1988.