Non-profit: DOT budget should focus on repair

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit group that seeks to reduce residents’ reliance on cars, said the state Transportation Department’s proposed capital plan for Fiscal Year 2012 “retreats from the state’s popular fix-it-first policy,” focusing more attention on road expansion projects than fixing roads that are in poor condition.

According to its analysis, 7.5 percent of the department’s capital improvement funds goes toward road expansion, more than twice the 3.6 percent of the fund that went toward that project last year.

The group also questioned some of the projects in the plan, such as a $5 million project that calls for a new truck road known as “Portway” or “Route 1&9T” that would run through the Port of Newark and Elizabeth, and an interchange project on I-295 in Camden County that could cost as much as $800 million.

“The state is broke, and our investments must be smart,” the group said. “We urge the Governor, State Legislature, and NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson to take a hard look at all projects in the capital program to ensure New Jersey residents are getting the best bang for their transportation buck.”

The state Transportation Department released its Roadway Pavement System Report on Thursday, which said that half of the roads that are maintained by the state are “deficient.” The proposed capital program calls for investing $284 million in highway rehabilitation, reconstruction, resurfacing and capital maintenance projects. If the department continues to make regular investments of this amount, it could increase the number of roads in the state considered acceptable, from 50 percent to 80 percent.

At a March 31 hearing before the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said the 12 percent of the state’s estimated 2,550 bridges are considered deficient. He added that there aren’t any bridges in  New Jersey that are considered dangerous.

Simpson also said the department was going to increase its budget for pothole repairs, from $202 million to $308 million.

Non-profit: DOT budget should focus on repair