Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox has ordered immediate safety inspections of the state’s bridges identified as structurally deficient in response to the collapse that occurred during a routine operation on Monday, killing one man.
The condition of the state’s roads and bridges is the subject of New Jersey Monthly’s January cover story: “Why Jersey Roads Suck.”
We reported that a combination of the ailing infrastructure, the state’s dense population centers and a failing Transportation Trust Fund have led to the poor conditions of the roads and bridges.
Currently, 624 of the state’s 6,566 bridges (9.5 percent) are deemed structurally deficient and another 1,710 (26 percent) are considered functionally obsolete.
The TTF, established in 1984 under Governor Tom Kean, was conceived as a pay-as-you-go revenue source for capital projects, including bridge and road upkeep and rehabilitation in order to keep the state’s transportation infrastructure functioning.
However, the TTF has found itself in debt to the tune of $14 billion because its major source of funding—the gas tax—has not been raised since 1988.
Against this backdrop, some lawmakers have called for an increase in the gas tax, particularly since gas prices have dramatically fallen over the past several months.
Last March, Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) proposed a bill, still awaiting action in Trenton, which would increase the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon up from its current rate of 10.5 cents per gallon over a three-year period, raising an additional $750 million for the TTF over those three years.
Governor Chris Christie continues to oppose any increase in the tax—and New Jerseyans seem to agree with him on that one.
A poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind on Jan. 19 showed that of 803 New Jerseyans polled—68 percent still oppose raising the tax on gasoline, with a mere 28 percent who are in favor.
Although the governor refuses to budge, Fox, a Democrat appointed by Christie in September to fix the transportation mess, recently told NJ.com that now might be the right time for an increase.
“Are we waiting for a crisis? We are in a crisis,” he said. “Now is the time, when gas prices are low. The money has run out and the projects are accumulating.”
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