Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 8

TRENTON – Life is a beach!

That is probably what Gov. Chris Christie was thinking as he spent much of this week strolling the boardwalks and getting a tan, all the while promoting measures he said help save the beaches.

He made stops in Belmar, Manasquan, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Seaside Heights over the course of several days.

The governor recently signed legislation providing $650 million in no-cost and low-cost loans for projects to improve water quality across the state. They include $34.5 million for 18 projects in Ocean County, including two projects in Seaside Park.

Monmouth County, another county containing large swaths of the Jersey Shore, has had $27 million earmarked for seven water quality improvement projects, including two projects in Manasquan.

Both of the beaches he visited on Thursday will see funding for various spruce-ups. Manasquan is receiving $160,000 to fix up Blakey Avenue and Seaside Heights will receive a $175,000 grant for sidewalk improvements along the Boulevard.

Other beaches have also seen improvements recently, according to the Governor’s Office.

In mid-May, a $3.3 million resurfacing and bridge deck patching project was completed, improving two miles of Route 37 in both directions over the Barnegat Bay in Toms River Township and the Boroughs of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.

In addition, $6.9 million is included in the Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation Capital program to advance the replacement of the Route 37 eastbound Mathis Bridge over the Barnegat Bay.

Then on Friday, Christie stopped in Atlantic City – where he toured the Revel casino  project – and Ocean City.


Toll hike

The massive toll hike expected for commuters using the Holland and Lincoln tunnels as well as  the George Washington Bridge was met with disbelief by Gov. Christie, he said at a news conference Monday.

“You’re kidding,” he said he told Port Authority officials when they informed him of the heavy toll hike they have proposed, from $8 to $12. He added that while he’s not inclined to support that specific toll hike, he could not rule out toll hikes in general.

While not pleased about the toll hike possibility, Christie said it might be needed because of ineffective budget practices by the bi-state agency.

“This is testimony to the mismanagement of the Port for years. We shouldn’t have to be in this kind of situation,’’ he said.

The media has been pressing Christie concerning how long he’s been aware of a potential toll increase, but he said on Monday he only learned of it late last week, and he has consistently declined to divulge specifics of his conversations with N.Y. Gov. Cuomo about the proposed hike and how they will respond to it.

It is possible gubernatorial vetoes could be used to block the increase.


Economic doldrums

The sluggish economy will not be perked up by any special means.

As economist James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, sees it, the era of easy money-making is over.

He said following a business roundtable at the Statehouse this week that private-sector hiring had been improving until the recent uncertainty caused by Congress, and companies will need to make more of an effort to keep existing employees from migrating to other companies in other states.


Renewing acquaintances

And it may not sound like a big deal, but the news that Senate President Steve Sweeney stopped by the governor’s office for a chat on Monday was noteworthy considering  it had been about a month since their last reported direct contact.

And you may recall that was around the time Sweeney unleashed his verbal tirade against Christie over his budget vetoes.

While sources said there was no business discussed on Monday, the issue of restoring Transitional Aid to $149 million remains a front-burner issue for municipalities throughout the state.


  Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 8