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Former PA Offical Robins: Transportation Fund Needs Fixes at State and Federal Levels

7-24-14

Days before the Transportation Trust Fund runs out of money, both of New Jersey’s U.S. senators along with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation will be warning of consequences of funds that are not replenished. The House of Representatives recently approved a short-term fix to the depleted highway funds, and the Senate is set to vote for a short-term fix next week. Alan Vorhees Transportation Control Founding Director and former Port Authority official Martin Robins told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that there’s a need for short- and long-term fixes.

“You definitely need long-term fixes at both federal level and at the state level,” said Robins. “Beause the state level problems are just as dire as the deadline is around the corner as opposed to this week. At the federal level, the reason that it isn’t long-term is politics.”

Robins said that both political parties in the state cannot sit down long enough to agree on an approach and if they did, they could reach an agreement to fixing the Transportation Trust Fund by raising the gasoline tax.

According to Robins, increasing the gasoline tax would be the obvious answer to fix the transportation fund.

“The gasoline tax is the obvious answer to our problems and yet we have run the Transportation Trust Fund into a ditch,” Robins said.

Robins said that Gov. Chris Christie is going to face the legislature in a couple of months with a request to raise the bonding level of the Transportation Trust Fund because it has gone ahead of the anticipated bonding rate.

Christie’s nominee for Port Authority chairman, John Degnan, has now taken over as chairman and started off his tenure by taking the bus. Robins said that it was a smart move on Degnan’s part. He said that Degnan’s predecessor had a black mark against his tenure and that the Port Authority divided its 10-year capitol plan, which didn’t leave money to fix the bus terminal.

“Everyone that is familiar with bus transportation in the region knows that the bus terminal no longer works and in the evening there are chaotic delays over and over and over again and people are beside themselves,” said Robins.

Robins said that Degnan has a big agenda ahead of him and that he is taking the right steps in addressing issues.

“I was just at a meeting today and I was reminded by someone who works at a professional level with the Port Authority, he told me that he can’t believe how bifurcated the Port Authority has become between New York interest and New Jersey interest,” said Robins. “I worked there in the 1980s. There was hardly anything like that. Everybody knew it was the Port Authority, it had a variety of responsibilities and it didn’t matter which state was served. But now the people there have learned to become so conscious of this state versus that state and it really interferes with their ability to do work. John Degnan has got to change that mindset.”