A ‘perfect storm’ of transportation problems in NJ
A "perfect storm" of transportation problems is taking shape in the Garden state.
New Jersey’s roads and bridges are crumbling, the fund to pay for repairs is nearly empty and there’s no plan in place to replenish it. In addition, federal transportation dollars for the Garden State could soon be cut, NJ Transit is facing a potentially huge budget deficit next year that could lead to another major fare increase, and the state has inexperienced new leaders at both the NJ Department of Transportation and NJ Transit.
“We need to sound the siren in New Jersey, we have a real transportation crisis, it impacts our transit, it impacts our roads, it impacts our bridges, it impacts our quality of life and the economy,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
She said the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1988, but we’ve seen five mass transit fare hikes, which is unfair, and doesn’t address the underlying problem that keeps getting worse.
“People need to understand that they’re dishing out a good deal of money on road repairs, just because the infrastructure, the roads and bridges and pavement are deficient in New Jersey. They’re paying for it at the car repair shop or they’re going to be paying for it in insurance costs, a gas tax will help alleviate some of that burden," Vanterpool said.
She adds all transportation revenue that’s raised in this state from tolls, fees and other taxes now goes to debt service.
“That means there’s no money for projects and whatever projects are being done right now are being done because that money has been borrowed,” she said. “That money is on a credit card, and New Jersey residents are going to be paying for that.”
She also said last year, when NJ Transit had a $52 million budget gap, fares were raised by 9 percent, but a much bigger increase could be right around the corner.
“We think that in the upcoming year, by 2017, NJ Transit may have a $450 million deficit,” she said.
Vanterpool estimates that could force the agency to raise fares another 16 to 19 percent.
“$450 million as a potential deficit will decimate the system. It will decimate New Jersey’s economy," she said. “Many people in New Jersey are tired of sitting in traffic, they’re tired of long commutes on NJ Transit on buses and rails that takes time away from their families, that makes them grumpy, that pollutes the air. We really have to get serious about what is a priority here – a gas tax increase is only one of many possibilities.”