After issuing an Executive Order calling for the temporary shutdown of capital projects funded by New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, Governor Christie (well, acting governor Kim Guadagno – Christie is currently in Italy) released the list of projects impacted by the order. The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s list is 43 pages long and includes municipalities in all 21 counties totaling over $775 million. NJ Transit’s list is seven pages long, with projects totaling over $2.7 billion.
It’s still not clear which projects exactly will cease on Friday and in what order. The shutdown plan does exempt “projects deemed essential for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of all citizens” and it doesn’t stop federally-funded projects.
Apart from a handful of TTF funding proposals which had no chance of passage because of the governor’s “tax fairness” requirement (or too few votes for a veto override), legislators only put forward serious plans to replenish the TTF days before the fund was about to dry up. Though both houses offered a menu of tax reductions during the final week of June that they hoped would gain Christie’s approval, neither was enough to prevent the TTF’s insolvency.
The extensive list of projects being shut down is a clear illustration of why New Jersey needs to identify a sustainable funding mechanism for the Transportation Trust Fund. Even with all these projects up and running, the state is barely keeping up with its most crucial transportation needs: reducing the backlog of deficient bridges, improving pavement conditions, and meeting the need for expanded transit options without placing further burden on riders. This is why we need the long overdue increase to the state’s second-lowest-in-the-nation gas tax.
The shutdown of projects, although temporary, will certainly cause an inconvenience for drivers and transit commuters, but it also means that hundreds of workers will be out of work until an agreement is reached and construction resumes. When that will be, however, nobody knows. There is no indication of when the legislature will take up this matter publicly. There are no hearings set on the legislature’s calendar and the next Senate voting session isn’t until August 1.