NJ counties worried about transportation funding
Local New Jersey officials are concerned that if the Transportation Trust Fund runs out of money it could force them to make some difficult choices to fund local road projects.
The Transportation Trust Fund, the pot of money the state uses for highway, bridge and tunnel projects, is on track to go broke in the near future. Without additional revenue, the state could be required to further increase its debt load, which is currently the third-highest in the country, behind New York and California.
"We're responsible for over $500 million a year in critical transportation projects, particularly bridges," said John Donnadio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties. "We receive a little over $100 million a year to cover that $500 million a year need."
If the TTF runs out of money or if counties get less when it is reauthorized, there would be few options, according to Donnadio.
"We're going to have to look at borrowing additional money which of course long-term is just going to cost us more money. We've also got to look at the different alternative sources of revenue whether it's the gas tax (or) a dedicated portion of the sales tax," Donnadio said.
According to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, a 1 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax would raise approximately $40 to $58 million per year. If the state's 7 percent sales tax was applied to gas purchases, it would roughly be the equivalent of raising the gas tax by 15.4 cents per gallon, generating approximately $800 million a year.
Gov. Chris Christie has consistently said he will not increase the gas tax.
"The blue ribbon transportation commission (in 2003) said that counties and municipalities should be getting close to $300 million per year. If we get less than we're getting now when the TTF is reauthorized and counties don't want to borrow, then we're going to have to cut back on important bridge and road projects - and you don't know what the long-term effect of that is," Donnadio said.