Transportation works loan program bill advances

TRENTON – The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee released a bill Thursday creating a program to fund various kinds of transportation  projects.

A3177 would establish a non-lapsing revolving fund within the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust known as the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Program.

The bill permits the trust to issue bonds in maturities of up to 30 years for all types of projects and creates an interim financing program for transportation projects.

This would replace the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank that previously resided as a subaccount of the Special Transportation Trust Fund, which would be repealed.

The bill expands the mission from water and environmental infrastructure projects, to include transportation projects.  The bill requires that funds and accounts of the trust be segregated in such a way as to prevent the mixing of transportation moneys and water or environmental infrastructure moneys.

Chair John Wisniewski said that in an era of scarce dollars, this bill utilizes “state dollars in a public-private fashion.” He said it is modeled after the successful N.J. Environmental Infrastructure Trust.

The state DOT raised some concerns – via a letter sent Wednesday afternoon – including delays being incurred due to this formal relationship with EIT.

Sponsor Troy Singleton, Wisniewski, and Committee Vice Chair Linda Stender expressed frustration at receiving such a letter so late.  The committee agenda is published five days in advance, Wisniewski said, yet they received DOT’s concerns late Wednesday.

Singleton said this bill would essentially “grow the pot,” making more resources available for DOT projects.

“This will allow them to do projects they can’t do now due to a lack of resources.  I’m a little concerned why someone would think this is going to cannibalize other programs,” he said.

The state investment bank might not be eligible for federal funding, a concern raised by Brian Rumpf. “We frankly don’t know where the money’s going to come from,’’ he said.

Singleton said, though, what concerns investors is assurances they will recoup their money.

And Wisniewski emphasized this bill enables use of private money in conjunction with public funds, which can’t be done now.

It advanced 10-0-3 with Republicans Declan O’Scanlon, Scott Rudder and Brian Rumpf abstaining.

Transportation works loan program bill advances