Citing a shortage of cash, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is reportedly planning to borrow up to $1.4 billion this year to fund the widening of the Turnpike between Interchanges 6 and 8A.
According to Chief Financial Officer Donna Manuelli, the Authority has only $280 million in hand and has spending commitments of $80 million per month for capital projects. This announcement comes on the heels of reports that Turnpike revenue is up despite traffic being down.
Incurring debt, instead of identifying new revenue sources, to pay for transportation projects is nothing new for New Jersey. This past year, the New Jersey legislature approved a measure to borrow an additional $260 million to fund this year’s transportation capital program after the “cash” portion was raided to plug a general fund deficit.
New Jersey residents would be better served if the State invested in projects that prioritized the maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure (i.e. return to the fix-it-first policy, especially post-Sandy), increased transit service and provided greater cross-Hudson access. With all this borrowing for Turnpike Authority (and with the Transportation Trust Fund being broker than broke), New Jersey is driving down a (wide and congested) road to financial ruin.