By John S. Wisniewski
In a recent study, the American Association of State Transportation Highway Officials ranked New Jersey 50th in the nation in road conditions. To some, that information may not be too surprising since New Jersey is home to nearly 5.9 million licensed drivers who utilize more than 36,000 miles of roadways each day. However, many of us find this information an important reminder of the challenges ahead. Reliable transportation in the state is important to the success and growth of our economy. Currently, that economy is being supported by a transportation system that is increasingly congested and showing its age.
There are two aspects of our transportation network that need to be addressed – namely, how well we maintain our current infrastructure, and how well we invest in projects to allow our infrastructure to meet the demands of tomorrow. Years of simultaneously putting off maintenance and deferring investment in new projects, have left our roads and overall transportation network in terrible shape.
For example, the national highway study found that 46% of local roads in New Jersey are in poor condition – greatly exceeding the national average of 13%. The importance of this figure extends far beyond a commuter’s frayed nerves and random incidents of road rage. It’s estimated that bad roads cost a typical New Jersey driver roughly $596 per year in repairs in vehicle wear and tear. In addition to maintenance and repair, there are long-term investments we need to make. Our current roadways and rail lines are nearly at capacity. To residents with a long commute, this is probably already painfully clear. To our economy, it’s an outright threat to meeting future needs. Bridges, roadways, and tunnel projects in New Jersey will need to be planned, funded, and undertaken in order to meet the needs of the next generation of growth.
But there is good news on both fronts. We are making progress and drivers will see noticeable relief soon, as the state begins to use federal economic stimulus money to fund some long over due road improvements. According the Department of Transportation, the state is repaving 623 miles of road this year alone. Compared to our neighbors, we are putting the highest amount of federal stimulus money toward road repairs. In Middlesex County alone, there is a multimillion dollar road resurfacing project currently being planned. Also, throughout the State, bridges, ramps, and major road arteries are receiving much needed maintenance work.
Planning for the years ahead is just as critical. In order to alleviate some congestion from our clogged roadways, we’re making substantive investments in our infrastructure. In fact, by comparison, we’re doing much more than other states in the region. New York State plans to use only $154 million of its stimulus money for road and bridge improvements, while New York City is spending $261 million, and Connecticut plans to spend $302 million. New Jersey is anticipating $652 million for road and bridge projects, more than twice the amount of the highest neighboring state.
Though we still need to identify a long-term solution to keeping the Transportation Trust Fund afloat, we’re currently putting the stimulus money to good use in addressing the concerns raised in this national study. As Chairman of the Transportation Committee, I will continue fighting to ensure that the state is making wise decisions when investing in our infrastructure. For more information on how stimulus money is being used in the state or any other legislative matter or state program, please contact my legislative office at (732) 316-1885 or visit my web site: www.wisniewskifornj.com.
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