Sacco: Utilities must be held accountable if responsible for road project delays

TRENTON – Sen. Nicholas J. Sacco, who serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, will introduce a bill Thursday that will require public utility companies and the state Transportation Department to work together to develop a plan to relocate utility equipment and facilities to make way for road construction projects.

Public utilities would be liable if they fail to meet the construction schedule laid out for equipment relocation and cost overruns result, Sacco said in a release today.

Under the proposed bill, such material would include pipes, mains or laterals, electric conduits, access manholes, cables, wires, towers, poles, telecommunications or data transmission equipment, or other equipment, appliances or apparatus not including railroads.

“Whenever a public agency engages in a transportation infrastructure project, there are significant costs associated with the relocation of utility facilities and equipment,” Sacco said in a statement.

“While I think it’s appropriate that the cost of relocating that equipment is borne by the agency completing the road project, the utility company should be held responsible if the project is delayed as a result of its failure to provide support in a timely manner, causing cost overruns in the construction budget. 

This bill creates some fairness when public utility infrastructure has to be moved on account of a road construction project, and it creates a mechanism to save taxpayer and transportation dollars should the project costs increase as a result of the utility’s failure to act quickly.”

Sacco said the issue was brought to his attention after seeing delays in the Tonnelle Avenue widening project in North Bergen, which he said stemmed from the slow relocation of utility infrastructure.

He also mentioned current delays in widening a section of Route 3 near MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, which might not be completed in time for the 2014 Super Bowl.

Sacco: Utilities must be held accountable if responsible for road project delays