Troubling Trends Continue in NJDOT’s Final 2013 Capital Program

According to a Tri-State analysis of NJDOT’s $3.2 billion Transportation Capital Program for FY2013, which lays out much of the state’s transportation spending for the coming year, the agency will continue a trend towards building new roads while lessening investment in bicycle and pedestrian programs. In June, the Campaign analyzed the draft version of this capital program, and while differences emerged between the draft and final documents, trends noted in the draft plan remain in the final version. Below, we review the state’s plans.

Capital Program Allocation by Project Type*

2012 2013
Draft Capital Program Final Capital Program Draft Capital Program Final Capital Program
New Road Capacity Projects 10.95% 13.35% 15.81% 13.96%
Bicycle/Pedestrian Projects 2.74% 3.01% 2.35% 2.32%
New Jersey Transit Share 33.26% 33.26% 36.09% 36.00%

* PANYNJ Project Program funds are excluded from the New Road Capacity and Bicycle/Pedestrian Project figures for the 2012 Final Capital Program and 2013 Draft and Final Capital Programs (the funds amount to $343 million in 2012 and $353 million in 2013). The New Jersey Transit share includes the entire capital program.

New Road Capacity Remains High

Projects that add capacity to the state’s roadways make up about 14% of the $1.712 billion NJDOT portion of the Final Capital Program.** Although this is down from almost 16% in the Proposed Capital Program, it is an increase from previous years when new road capacity made up less than 4% of the agency’s capital program. Furthermore, the reduction may be misleading—$20.7 million that was apparently shaved from a South Jersey interchange project (Direct Connection), for example, is simply being spent in a way that is not shown in the FY2013 Capital Program documents. The project’s overall cost has not been reduced and the final capital program means another year of ballooning state spending on added road capacity.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Project Funding Decreases

The NJDOT-labeled portion of this chart includes both state and federal funds

TSTC’s line-by-line analysis of the 2013 final capital program reveals that bicycle/pedestrian projects comprise 2.32% of NJDOT’s portion, down from 2.35% in the draft version. One bicycle/pedestrian project that was in the draft program but was cut from the final version is Somerset County’s Route 22, Sidewalk Improvements (funded at $2.9 million). However, this project will be funded in 2014, according to a new, searchable database of the up-to-date STIP. According to TSTC’s analysis, the dollar amount of funding for bicycle/pedestrian-related projects has slipped 35% (about $21.4 million) from 2012’s final capital program to 2013’s final capital program. The importance of investing in bicycle/pedestrian projects which provide safety components cannot be underestimated—from 2008 through 2010, 435 pedestrians were killed on New Jersey’s roads and the most recent fatal accident report from the New Jersey State Police shows that year-to-date 2012 pedestrian fatalities are higher than pedestrian fatalities during the same time period in 2011 and 2010.

Modest Gains for Transit

The Final Capital Program is not all bad news. The state will invest $1.152 billion in New Jersey Transit in 2013, raising transit’s share of the total capital program to 36% (up from about 33% in 2012). Despite this increase over last year, funding to transit has consistently decreased from 2004, when the agency received 49% of the state’s total Capital Program. Nonetheless, with cost-cutting service reductions coming even as ridership increases, the funding bump is welcome, although nowhere near the level of investment needed. Frequent delays and congestion underscore the need for more significant and reliable capital investment in New Jersey’s transit infrastructure.

Funding Still Shaky

Aside from the state’s transportation spending priorities, there is also the matter of how the state is paying for them. As with NJDOT’s Proposed Capital Program, the final version relies on $353 million in one-shot funding transfers from the Port Authority to fund four NJDOT projects: Route 7, Hackensack River (Wittpenn) Bridge; Route 139 (Hoboken and Conrail Viaducts); Route 1&9T Extension; and Route 1&9 Pulaski Skyway). It also relies on a one-shot of $260.6 million from New Jersey Turnpike Authority toll increases. Both these funding sources were originally slated for the cancelled Access to the Region’s Core project, but the NJTA and the PANYNJ contributions will stop in 2016, leaving a significant funding gap beginning 2017, unless new revenue is found. The state also recently diverted $260 million previously earmarked for transportation projects in 2013 to close a budget gap in the general fund, resulting in the issuance of more debt through bonds to cover the lost funding. It is abundantly clear that without new revenue sources or an increased reliance on debt, the state will not have enough money to maintain current funding levels, let alone meet future transportation needs.

**Starting in the 2012 Final Capital Program and continuing to the 2013 Final Capital Program, NJDOT includes a lump sum of funds coming from the Port Authority to finance four NJDOT facilities. These funds are identified as the PANY&NJ-NJDOT Project Program and were originally intended for the canceled Access to the Region’s Core project. In order to focus on NJDOT’s spending commitments, TSTC’s recent analyses of the 2012 Final Capital Program, the 2013 Proposed Capital Program, and the 2013 Final Capital Program do not include these Port Authority funds.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.