— According to a recent study on the Transportation Trust Fund, New Jersey’s primary mechanism to repair roads and bridges, New Jersey might be facing a transportation meltdown. The report, released this month by a coalition of planners, transportation groups, and academics, urges the state’s elected officials to figure out a way to replenish the fund by next summer, according to Thomas G. Dallessio, vice president and New Jersey director of the Regional Plan Association, the main authors of the study, as reported by the New York Times.
The warning comes two years after a commission appointed by former Gov. James E. McGreevey concluded that the state’s transportation infrastructure was crumbling so rapidly that the state needed to more than double what it charged motorists for a gallon of gas to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for basic maintenance work.
But the study reveals that the situation has become even more dire because starting in July 2006, the fund’s entire $805 million budget would have to be used to pay off the loans that New Jersey lawmakers relied on in the 1990’s to pay for transportation projects.
To reform the fund, the study’s report called on the state to set up a five-person oversight committee, similar to the New York State Financial Control Board that was created in 1975 to pull New York City from the precipice of bankruptcy.
The report urges the state to stop diverting $115 million from the transportation trust fund each year to its general coffers and to stop tapping $300 million from its capital funds each year to pay for basic operating expenses.
The report also suggested that the state look aggressively for new revenue sources. These could include raising New Jersey Transit fares as well as tolls on the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, reported the New York Times.
One suggestion floated this year was leasing sections of the state’s toll roads to corporations or pri-vate donors who would maintain them. Another one would be to sell off real estate near the Vince Lombardi Service Area in Bergen County.