During his Thursday budget speech, Gov. Christie took aim at transit riders and said they should prepare for fare hikes and service increases — even though the governor listed NJ Transit as one of several programs that are being slashed even though they “actually have merit, and in most cases make sense.” But there were two clear examples of government waste that the governor didn’t mention: The widenings of the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which are expected to cost the state $3.6 billion.
When these projects were introduced to the public by then-Acting Governor Codey in 2004 and 2005, they carried relatively modest price tags. But more realistic estimates from recent years tell a different story:
|Year||New Jersey Turnpike (exits 6-8A)||Garden State Parkway (30-80)||Total|
|2004/5||$1,300M||$135M (exits 63-80 only)||$1.4B|
These projects would be bad ideas even in flush times. The Turnpike widening will exacerbate traffic and sprawl in surrounding areas, while the Parkway project is designed to fail and will offer virtually no congestion relief even in the short-term.
Christie himself has outlined a possible solution. In his budget speech, the governor said that some state projects should be delayed “until the state has the resources to pay for them.” Given New Jersey’s financial condition and the continued decline of toll road traffic, this would be a fiscally responsible approach to the widening projects. Deferring the projects would also give the governor time to review whether they are really in the state’s best interests.