New Jersey’s legislature is struggling with the maintenance of New Jersey’s roads and railways, but there is some question as to whether the latest legislative effort is the right answer to the problem.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, New Jersey leads the country in the number of roads that are rated as “poor” and comes in 9th for bridges rated “structurally deficient”. Our roads are in bad shape. At the same time, our state budget isn’t doing terribly well either, so we don’t have a lot of money to throw at problems.
On Monday, the New Jersey State Senate will vote on S1470 (sponsored by Ray Lesniak, D-20th LD, and Joe Doria, D-31st LD), which proposes to remove a cap that was placed on money spent on new highways. That cap required a portion of the transportation funding be spent on maintaining existing highways and bridges. The cap was actually set at 4%, requiring that 96% of the transportation funding be spent on existing infrastructure. There are a lot of angles to this issue. In the first place, we know that the north/south routes in the state are the best, while east/west routes lag behind. Still, we have a lot of roads in this state and a large expansion in road-building will mean, among other things, destruction of the limited amount of existing, undeveloped land (and there is not much of that). In addition, this would mean that, even with our roads and bridges as badly in need of repair as they are, repairs would be even more neglected.
The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) is actively opposing this legislation as it is written.