TRANSPORTATION

Report highlights key transportation projects for next governor

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

The latest report from The Fund for New Jersey focuses on transportation in the state. Former NJ Transit Deputy Executive Director Martin Robins says it’s been neglected for years.

“It started in the administration of Christine Todd Whitman,” Robins said. “That’s when the diversion of capital to operating began and it has grown a pace and Gov. Christie added to it,” said Robins.

The report, called “Transportation Must Again Be the Backbone of New Jersey Economy” highlights major infrastructure projects. The $24 billion Gateway Project would replace the deteriorating, 100-year-old rail tunnels under the Hudson River that connect New York and New Jersey. This is key, the report says, to New Jersey’s economic future.

Another project highlighted in the report is the Port Authority Bus Terminal. About 200,000 commuters travel through it every day and the 67-year-old bus station on 42nd Street is overwhelmed. The report says it needs to be expanded or replaced.

Former Gov. Jim Florio says those projects need to be addressed by the next governor.

“There’s no alternative. They’re going to take our word to heed because nobody wants to wait for the tunnel to collapse. Nobody wants to wait for a bridge to fall down, so we’ve got to talk to people saying that nothing is for nothing, you get what you pay for,” said Florio.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno has said she will look into diverting New York tax revenue to help fund transportation projects that would benefit the entire region. She’s also a supporter of working with the Port Authority to build a new bus terminal.

Democratic nominee Phil Murphy has called for fully funding the Gateway and Port Authority Bus Terminal. He has also campaigned for increased oversight of the New Jersey Turnpike, NJ Transit and the Port Authority.

Both candidates call for prioritizing transportation projects based on need, not politics. But Robins says even with the Transportation Trust Fund deal in place, there’s still a long way to go.

“We just had a 23-cent increase on the gasoline tax and yet, it is not going to pay for anywhere like the number projects that people have anticipated. That’s worrisome,” said Robins.

The question is will our next leadership make transportation a priority, and how will it all get funded?

“It’s very challenging for the next governor because the problem is that there are funds that could be used for capital purposes,” said Robins. “I could tell you that there are $700 million each year that are actually available for capital that are now put into the operating budget of NJ Transit, which is in shambles. So, some courageous budgeting by the next governor could really turn things around quickly.”