A quick update on some of the Garden State’s transportation issues:
Transportation Trust Fund (TTF)
The state’s TTF will run dry on July 1, one year earlier than initially thought. Legislative leadership had been working with Governor Christie to devise a plan to restore solvency to the fund, insisting “everything is on the table.” But after denying the existence of any “crisis,” the Governor announced a new plan to borrow $600 million to meet the state’s FY2016 transportation needs. To put it simply: any hope of honestly addressing this issue appears to be dead.
Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)
While the terminal’s $90 million “Quality of Commute” program is underway, the improvements do not address the underlying problems plaguing the 65-year-old facility. After months of pressing the Authority to address the growing demand for cross-Hudson bus service, the Board announced this week that a new terminal would cost as much as $10 billion—a price tag that many find suspect.
Amtrak announced several months ago that damage to the rail tunnels under the Hudson from Superstorm Sandy was worse than initially perceived, and to repair it would require that one tunnel be taken out of service for at least a year—which could happen as early as this year. Given that NJ Transit ridership is steadily increasing, the work would cause major disruption to service. Last week, Senate President Sweeney announced a funding proposal for the Gateway Tunnel Project, which would include a $3 billion Port Authority contribution from the sale of non transportation-related real estate.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Legislation
A safe passing bill that would require a motorist maintain a distance of at least four feet when passing a cyclist, pedestrian or other vulnerable road user remains held up in the Senate Transportation Committee. Despite the fact that bicyclists and pedestrians accounted for more than 30 percent of all road fatalities in New Jersey in 2014, Committee Chairman Nicolas Sacco still hasn’t posted the bill.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Reform
There was once unanimous support for Senator Bob Gordon’s bill to increase transparency and accountability at the bi-state agency, but Senate Democrats could only swing one of the required three Republicans votes to support a veto override.
As of February 13, New Jersey tax and toll payers have paid for nearly $11 million in legal costs incurred by the investigation into Governor Christie’s Bridgegate—a hefty sum that surely could have been put to better use. With $11 million, New Jersey could have funded 25 miles of the Circuit regional trail network’s paved asphalt trail, 25 miles of on-street bike lanes, 1,000 crosswalks, 500 bike corrals, and still have enough left to put $2.5 million toward the NJ Transit Village and Safe Streets to Transit programs.