Federal transportation funding for NJ – Could it be in jeopardy?
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (both D-NJ) and several transportation advocates gathered at the Route 35 Bridge in Perth Amboy on Monday, calling on Congress to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Without swift action, the fund will go broke by the end of this month.
Menendez said the trust fund provides transportation dollars that are critically important to the Garden State.
"In a densely populated state like ours, the ability to move people and goods safely and efficiently is critical to our economy and to our quality of life," he said.
Unfortunately, Menendez said, New Jersey is falling behind in many areas
"Our state now has over 2,300 deficient bridges, giving us the dubious distinction of having the sixth-highest in the nation percentage of failing bridges, and it's not just bridges," he said. "Throughout our state, roads are crumbling, ports are congested and our transit lines are falling apart."
According to Menendez, the state has a maximum of 20 years before the Hudson River rail tunnels have to be taken out of service -- tunnels that are essential to the economic viability of the region and the country.
"This is an issue that affects everyone," he said. "New Jersey drivers pay an average of $605 each year in vehicle repair costs due to crumbling roadways, they lose $861 each year in lost time and wasted fuel stuck in traffic, and transit funding is not enough to maintain current service levels, so a bad situation is only going to get worse."
Menendez rejects the idea that New Jersey can't afford to fix its transportation system.
"We can't afford not to fix it," he said.
Tracy Noble, AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs for New Jersey, confirmed the average repair cost for motorists due to crumbling roads and bridges is about $600 per year.
"But, there are repairs that can cost motorists up to $2,000, depending on what kind of damage has been done to their vehicle," she said. "This is a conversation that needs to happen now, and a solution that needs to happen sooner rather than later. We are in dire straits, as far as a transportation hub goes, for our state."