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End in Sight for NJ Work Freeze

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

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Nearly three months after all nonessential road, bridge and transit projects were halted in New Jersey, the state’s governor and political leaders have reached an agreement on how to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).

Gov. Chris Christie announced that he and lawmakers agreed to replenish the TTF by raising the state’s gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, per a statement released Friday (Sept. 30).

The new gas tax rate of 37.5 cents per gallon is the first the gas tax increase for New Jersey since 1988, sources said. In exchange, lawmakers consented to reduce or eliminate a number of other taxes.

Christie TTF announcement
Governor's Office / Tim Larsen

Gov. Chris Christie, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (left) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (right) announced a bipartisan agreement for broad-based tax cuts and funding to replenish the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund on Friday, (Sept. 30).

According to Christie, the plan “represents tax fairness for the residents of New Jersey,” in that the agreement calls for the state’s first broad-based tax cut since 1994, while also raising a tax to meet a specific funding need.

“[W]e are going to have constitutionally dedicated revenue to improve roads, bridges and the mass transit systems in the state,” he said in the statement.

"This $16 billion investment over the next eight years—the largest in TTF history—is an investment in both our economy and public safety,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced.

“A healthy and stable transportation network is vital to the flow of goods and services, vital to commuters trying to get to work, vital to first responders dealing with emergencies and vital to school buses trying to bring kids to school.”

Implementation of the gas tax increase still awaits a vote and final approval from both houses of the state legislature today (Oct. 5), NJ.com reported.

$16 Billion over 8 Years

Hundreds of road and bridge projects have been on hold in New Jersey since July 8, after the state legislature failed to approve a proposed gas tax increase intended to replenish the TTF. Christie issued a state of emergency, ordering the shutdown of nearly $3.5 billion worth of work, in an effort to conserve what little money remained in the TTF, and which was expected to last only through August.

However, under the bipartisan plan now seeking lawmakers’ approval, 100 percent of gas tax revenues would infuse the TTF with $2 billion per year over the next eight years, Christie explained during a late-afternoon press conference Friday.

New Jersey Turnpike
© iStock.com / Natalia Bratslavsky

Under the bipartisan agreement, 100 percent of gas tax revenues would be dedicated revenue to improve roads, bridges and the mass transit systems in the state, Christie said.

“That will mean ... when we combine the funds that will be contributed by the state and the funds that will be contributed by the federal government, that over $32 billion will be invested in infrastructure improvements and modernizations in the state of New Jersey over the next eight years,” Christie said.

Although this tax increase is expected to cost the average resident between $184 and $276 per year, the governor’s office said, the accompanying tax cuts reportedly exceed the gas tax increase, so residents should see a net savings in the end.

Moreover, with those funds dedicated to repairing and replacing New Jersey roads and bridges, the average New Jersey driver could see potential savings in the wear and tear of their vehicles.  

“The state Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. DOT have estimated that the average New Jersey driver spends approximately $600 per year on vehicle repairs caused by bad road conditions,” Christie said.

The deal also includes several other Democratic priorities, NJ Spotlight reported, such as plans to double transportation aid for municipalities and counties, fully fund light-rail expansion projects in Bergen and Gloucester counties, and upgrade New Jersey’s freight-rail infrastructure.

Getting Back to Work

With an estimated 1,700 construction workers displaced, and costs of about $1.3 million per day expected to impact the transportation construction industry, Prieto emphasized the seriousness of the situation and the need for state officials to move quickly now that the gas tax funding solution is in sight.

"Today I have heard of many people who have had to actually file for bankruptcy,” he told NJ.com. “This is serious. The bad weather is coming. We need to put these people back to work."

Assemblyman David Rible echoed those thoughts, saying: “I am pleased that the men and women who do this important work on our roads and bridges will be back to work and I look forward to working with the legislative leaders and the Governor to pass legislation implementing this plan as quickly as possible.”

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Mass transit; North America; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Roads/Highways; Transportation

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