POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

South Jersey counties are putting TTF funds to work

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Prices at the pump continue to rise.

New Jersey’s gas tax was one of the lowest in the country, but roughly two years ago, it went up 23 cents. It was done to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, which the state uses to pay for bridges, roads and rail work.

“It’s most definitely going to give us funding to advance things and at a rate that is going to put the traveling public in a better position,” said Burlington County Engineer Joe Brickley.

That’s because the agreement is an eight-year, $2 billion per year deal. The federal match dollars bring the total to $32 billion. And counties in the Garden State like Burlington say they are already benefiting.

“Typically, we do between 17 and 20 miles a year, this next year we will have almost 40 miles of roadway that’s going to be overlaid. We typically do one to two bridges a year, we’re going to be looking to do three to four bridges a year moving forward,” said Brickley.

A Gloucester County freeholder says it’s the same in her area.

Heather Simmons says they have 12 major projects in the works that would have happened regardless of the extra money. However, she adds, “What the re-funded TTF and the doubling of our county aid allocation insures is that we can meet those needs on schedule and move some programs up. So this year, instead of doing $3.5 million worth of capital infrastructure improvements, we can do $7 million.”

As more gets done to improve the overall infrastructure, electric vehicles do come into play.

It was a topic highlighted at Friday’s Southern New Jersey Development Council event.

“I think from a planning perspective, the state is in a really good spot declaring an EV task force, that will contemplate the chicken and egg issue — do electric cars come first, or is it the infrastructure,” said Will Nicholas, senior manager of policy and business development with Tesla.

Nicholas says his company thinks it’s a bit of both.

“We’re building the compelling cars that hopefully people will be encouraged to purchase, own and drive, but we’re also making a private investment to our supercharging network,” he added.

Tesla currently has 10 supercharging locations in the Garden State, but he says they plan to double that footprint by the end of this year.

“From a strategic perspective, you need to make sure the power is there and essentially getting power to the pad is something that should be developed in new construction, particularly when parking cars is being contemplated,” said Nicholas.

Pepco Holdings smart grid and technology manager Robert Stewart adds you also have to think about charging being mostly done at the residence.

“It’s most likely going to happen when we have our peak in the afternoons when air conditioning load and cooking load at its highest. So if we can create intelligent ways to incentivize customers to charge off-peak, then that’s better for our infrastructure — we don’t have to needlessly place things like residential transformers and do other upgrades to allow electric vehicles to integrate seamlessly into the existing distribution system,” said Stewart.

The state has about 14,000 plug-in vehicles in use right now.

But ChargEVC, a group made up of car dealers, electric utilities, and manufacturers of charging stations, hopes to get 330,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road in New Jersey by 2025.