TRENTON – A regional transportation advocate today panned an administration plan to divert $260 million intended to beef up the transportation trust fund to help balance the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
The plan to divert the money was announced on the same day that Gov. Chris Christie made an appearance at the Alliance for Action transportation summit, held at the Trenton Marriott.
According to the Tri State Transportation Campaign, the plan to divert the $260 million will hinder transportation service and improvement projects.
“The state has been trying hard in the past few years to get on the right track by investing more in existing infrastructure and bringing it into a state of good repair,” said Janna Chernetz, the state’s advocate for Tri-State Transportation. “The actions today thwart the state Department of Transportation efforts and the agency’s goals to reduce the backlog of deficient roads and bridges as well as NJ Transit’s ability to keep its system in a state of good repair and provide commuters with shorter commuting times. ”
She added that “it could also mean more service cuts even in the wake of the recent proposed bus cuts. This is the wrong move for New Jersey and its residents and commuters are going to suffer. They will see longer commutes on bad roads and crumbling bridges. Less money to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure puts all residents at risk, especially New Jersey’s oldest and youngest residents and the disabled.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff defended the move, saying borrowing is generally how capital projects are funded. The treasurer, however, reiterated the administration’s commitment to increasing the pay as you go component of the TTF.
Officials from DOT and NJ Transit were not immediately available for comment.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto, (D-32), of Secaucus called the diversion “troubling,” adding that the Turnpike revenue funds that were originally intended for a tunnel project are also being used to close budget shortfalls.
Over the years, the TTF, which was created in 1984, has long been subject to diversions and underfunding and is close to being broke.