By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
The Eighth Street Bridge connecting the City of Passaic and Wallington is 102 years old and structurally deficient.
It is slated for a $13 million makeover, but that can’t begin while the statewide freeze is on.
State and local officials gathered by the bridge to highlight the looming shutdown.
“The stoppage that’s going to happen at 11:59 is going to affect not only the big projects like the one here on this bridge, but the smaller towns, as the mayor has stated, that will affect the quality of life in these municipalities as well as opening the door for possible lawsuits to these municipalities to have to pay on those contracts that they’ve entered into,” said Assemblywoman Marlene Caride.
Gov. Chris Christie ordered the shutdown, he says to preserve dwindling funds, others say as a tactic to force negotiation.
Two competing plans — an Assembly and a Senate plan — are tied up in Trenton politics.
“The Assembly came up with a plan. That plan was vetted through the governor. The governor has agreed to the plan. There is a plan before us. There is only one plan before us at this time. From the Assembly side we welcome the involvement of our Senate colleagues to work with us on this plan to make it even better,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer.
The list of projects being halted is harrowingly long. Every one represents construction jobs temporarily lost and serious disruption for the state’s road and bridge contractors.
“They’re very, very worried. Many of them are very upset because I don’t really think anyone really believed this was going to go back June 30, the end of the fiscal year. But unfortunately many of them were keeping people employed all the way to the point that they couldn’t do it anymore and now the jobs are actually being shut down. A lot of very good people are going to get laid off,” said Anthony Attanasio from the Contractors Association of NJ.
It means problems for mayors and local officials, as well.
“One, where the biggest problem is, is that right near a school where we had this time framed out that we could do this work before the school opens. Now we don’t have any answers what’s going to happen with that,” said Wallington Mayor Mark Tomko.
The Assembly plan replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund is to raise the gas tax and cut the sales tax.
The Senate version is to raise the gas tax and phase out the estate tax.
Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJTV News last night he’s working on an alternative approach. Assembly Democratic leaders are open to that.
“Obviously we need the Senate president to sit down with the speaker and to work out something acceptable to the governor and get this done,” Schaer said.
The question now is whether a TTF compromise can come together next week before the two political conventions start distracting everyone from a little statewide road and bridge repair project shutdown.