Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the lower house Transportation Committee on Tuesday called on New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to provide bipartisan support for reauthorization of the Federal Surface Transportation bill, which could bring $300 million in road and bridge repair aid to the state.
Among the priority projects in the state’s transportation capital program that would likely be affected by any delay in reauthorization are $24 million for the PATCO bridge to North Park Drive in Collingswood and Pennsauken, $230 million for train and bus replacement; and $160 million for rail maintenance.
Among the road projects awaiting federal funding were $40 million for the Route 3 Passaic River crossing; $36 million for Route 80 Parsippany-Troy Hills roadway improvements; and $101 million for the Route 295/42/I-76 direct connection project.
“We all recognize that New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure is vital to our state’s economy,” Wisniewski write the congressmen. “New Jersey stands ready to leverage federal funding with state monies to invest in sorely needed projects, but without reliable and predictable federal support, planning for transportation improvements and shovel ready projects that can quickly put our people back to work will be delayed.”The existing federal Surface Transportation legislation expires at the end of the month, and Congress is finalizing proposed legislation to reauthorize federal aid for transportation projects nationwide.
Wisniewski said transportation spending creates jobs in the construction industry, service industries, manufacturing and retail sectors. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that a shutdown of federal highway and transit programs would place 50,000 jobs in New Jersey and over 1.8 million jobs nationwide at risk.
Wisniewski is concerned that the transportation bill could suffer the same fate as recent legislation to provide funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, with delays that “cost our people jobs and income and increased economic insecurity in what are already fragile economic times.”
Earlier this summer, after much debate, Congress passed a temporary spending measure for FAA, which expires on Sept. 16.
Wisniewski urged the congressmen to “join in a bipartisan effort with the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to ensure that transportation projects that will enhance our infrastructure and put people back to work are not delayed.”
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM