Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Denies Transportation Fund in 'Crisis'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Denies Transportation Fund in 'Crisis'

Article excerpt

Thirteen months after a member of Governor Christie's Cabinet ordered the emergency closure of highway bridges across North Jersey due to a "crisis" in the state's Transportation Trust Fund, Christie said in his annual budget speech Tuesday that the system faces no immediate danger.

"To imply that the TTF is in crisis and is suddenly and unexpectedly 'running out of money' is just a politically driven mischaracterization," Christie said. "There is time to reach a reasonable agreement."

That's a big change from last January when Christie's transportation commissioner at the time, Jamie Fox, barnstormed the state with public events aimed at drawing attention to the billion- dollar budget gap for road and transit projects.

"We have been kicking the can on this issue for far too long. That has to end now," Fox told a group of transportation planners last January. "Are we waiting for a crisis? We are in a crisis."

In recent years the fund has supported $1.2 billion in annual construction, maintenance and operating costs at NJ Transit and the state Department of Transportation. The money will run out on June 30, according to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services. Without new revenue, road and bridge construction projects will halt. Major maintenance of commuter trains will stop. NJ Transit riders will face a massive fare increase.

For many transportation experts, that meets the definition of a crisis.

"He's really got himself in a big jam this year," said Martin E. Robins, a former deputy director of NJ Transit and founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. "The Transportation Trust Fund is a disaster."

"Residents pay daily in vehicle repairs, congestion and transit delays because of Governor Christie's continued denial of the TTF funding crisis," said Janna Chernetz, director of New Jersey policy for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The state faced a similar deadline when Christie introduced his budget last year. Eventually the governor and legislative leaders cobbled enough money together from sources including $295 million from the Turnpike Authority, $62 million from the Clean Energy Fund, and borrowing to the limit against the trust fund. …

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