Forward NJ released a report September 16 analyzing the economic impact of various transportation investment levels in New Jersey. Tom Bracken, chair of Forward NJ and CEO of the NJ Chamber of Commerce, and the study’s author, Dr. Alison Premo Black, chief economist at the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), discussed the report at a press conference.
New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is facing a $620 million shortfall for FY 2016. For FY 2015, $1.26 billion will be spent on planned state transportation projects, with an additional $1.19 billion spent on the TTF’s debt service.
“We are not advocating for any specific funding source,” Bracken stated. “We have let everybody know that there are many options that we’re saying could be used as funding sources.” Bracken noted that there had been discussion before about a menu of funding options, including an increase in the state gas tax; a sales tax on fuel; increasing car rental fees; using revenue collected by camera traffic-enforcement programs; dedicating online gaming revenues; or utilizing surplus funds from the Motor Vehicle Commission.
ARTBA’s Dr. Black outlined some of the main conclusions of the report. Additional highway and bridge investment could save New Jersey drivers as much as $4.1 billion annually, according to the study. A sustained increase would support increased productivity, mobility and access to markets for businesses across the state in all sectors of the economy. (To view the report, visit http://www.forwardnewjersey.com/9.pdf.)
Forward NJ advocates for transportation funding solutions within the state and is encouraging lawmakers to replenish the depleted Transportation Trust Fund. The partnership is comprised of 25 tri-state organizations, including several chambers of commerce, former New Jersey Department of Transportation officials, transportation and construction companies, and labor advocates.
Bracken stated, “We must replenish the fund to protect the safety of our families and the health of our economy. There is no greater priority for the business community right now than replenishing the trust fund in a smart, robust, sustainable way. In addition, we believe the revenue should be constitutionally dedicated to prevent any potential diversion of funds down the road from these critically important transportation projects.”
After the press conference, several lawmakers released statements regarding the creation of Forward NJ and the coalition’s mission.
Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana (R-Passaic), ranking member on the Assembly Transportation Committee, stated, “Republicans welcome the opportunity to discuss practical solutions that fix the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. We look forward to working on the best approach that offers long-term, sustainable solutions. We must have a constructive dialogue that recognizes the extent of the problem and realistic suggestions to repair critical parts of our infrastructure while keeping taxpayers’ interests as a top priority.”
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Seacaucus) said, “When I first began talking about this problem earlier this year, I was hoping for a thoughtful and academic discussion focused only on facts, with the key fact being the impending insolvency of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund. I also welcomed input from everyone. With those goals in mind, we’ll review this report thoroughly and consider its findings. As we move toward our upcoming hearings on the state’s transportation crisis, I expect it will certainly play a role in our discussion.”
Read below for a full list of Forward NJ members:
American Council of Engineering Companies of NJ
Associated Construction Contractors of NJ
Dr. Martin Robins, Director Emeritus, Rutgers University Voorhees Transportation Center
Former NJDOT Commissioner Steve Dilts
Former NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox
Former NJDOT Commissioner Hazel Gluck
Former NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere
Laborers International Union of North America
Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce
Newark Regional Business Partnership
New Jersey Concrete & Aggregate Association
NJ Asphalt Pavement Association
NJ Association of Counties
NJ Builders Association
NJ State Building & Construction Trades Council
NJ State Chamber of Commerce
NJ State League of Municipalities
NY Shipping Association, Inc.
Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce
Southern New Jersey Development Council
Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ PlanSmart NJ
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of NJ