Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, (D-19), of Sayreville, today called on the state’s congressional delegation to provide bipartisan support for a “swift and clean” reauthorization of the Federal Surface Transportation bill.
One of the foremost transportation backers in Congress, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-NJ), said he is confident the measure will succeed. One Republican congressman, Frank LoBiondo, is also supportive, but said another reauthorization bill comes first.
The existing federal surface transportation legislation expires at the end of September and Congress is finalizing proposed legislation to reauthorize federal funding for transportation projects across the country, according to the assemblyman’s press release.
“New Jersey stands ready to leverage federal funding with state monies to invest in sorely needed projects,” Wisniewski, chairman of the Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, said, “but without reliable and predictable federal support, planning for transportation improvements and shovel-ready projects that can quickly put our people back to work will be delayed.”
Among the New Jersey projects that would likely be affected by any delay in reauthorization – possibly jeopardizing $300 million for roads and rail bridges – Wisniewski noted a $160 million rail maintenance project, which the assemblyman cited as a particular concern in light of the damage to rail infrastructure from Hurricane Irene, and a $101 million direct connection project for Routes 295/42/I-76.
Wisniewski said the transportation bill could suffer the same fate as recent legislation to provide funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with delays that “cost our people jobs and income and increased economic insecurity in what are already fragile economic times.” Earlier this summer, after much debate, Congress passed a temporary spending measure for the FAA, but it expires on Sept. 16.
LoBiondo, (R-NJ), said lawmakers can learn from the FAA shutdown.
“As we witnessed with the two-week partial shutdown of the FAA,” his spokesman said in an email, “tens of thousands of workers were inexcusably furloughed and critical aviation projects, including the NEXTGEN initiative at the FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, were interrupted.
“The costs to those workers, their families and the nation were significant and could have been prevented. Congressman LoBiondo strongly believes a similar event cannot and should not be allowed to occur again with future FAA extensions or with the upcoming Surface Transportation Authorization.”
This Thursday, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up the surface transportation extension bill, according to Lautenberg’s office. Lautenberg is a member of the committee, and is supportive the bill and a “clean” extension of it.