For immediate release: February 17, 2009
Contact Information: Kate Slevin, Zoe Baldwin
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
P: 212-268-7474
C: 609-271-0778

New Jersey Economic Recovery Now in Hands of Governor, NJDOT, MPOs

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Urges State Officials to Focus on “Fix it First” & Transit Projects

Trenton , NJ — As President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign called on state and local officials to ensure that the transportation portion revitalizes New Jersey’s economy, focusing on job creation by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in much needed public transit.

During a town hall meeting last Wednesday in Ft. Myers, FL, President Obama took an unequivocal stand in favor of a 21st Century transportation system including energy efficient investments such as high speed rail and public transit. Said President Obama: “Even when you’re in the middle of crisis, you’ve got to keep your eye on the future…The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over.”

“These funds offer state and local officials an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs that will build the strong communities the people of New Jersey want to live in," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy watchdog organization. “We’re calling on Governor Corzine, New Jersey DOT Commissioner Stephen Dilts and Metropolitan Planning Organization leaders to heed President Obama’s vision for change and urging them to spend these investments wisely.”

The bill signed today includes about $46 billion for transportation, including roughly $1.18 billion for New Jersey to invest in public transit, roads, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. (State shares of intercity and high speed rail funding in the new law have yet to be determined.) New Jersey will receive the funds through programs that allow states broad discretion.

“At this point, it is up to Governor Corzine to use this money wisely, and make our communities stronger,” noted Zoe Baldwin, New Jersey Advocate of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Key points of the legislation are listed below:

  • $27.5 billion is allocated to the Surface Transportation Program (STP) that, as its name states, can be spent on the state’s most pressing surface transportation needs. New Jersey’s $651 million in STP funds could begin to restore our transportation networks to a state of good repair if state and local officials give priority to fix-it-first rather than unneeded new highways that encourage more congestion and oil dependence.
  • Flexibility built into STP funds allows New Jersey to invest in transit, road, rail, and bicycle and pedestrian projects that reduce oil dependence, traffic congestion, and vulnerability to gas price hikes.
  • Just under 30% of STP funds will be directed (“suballocated”) to metropolitan decision makers, who will have the flexibility to use the money to meet the diverse transportation needs of their constituents while helping to foster the clean energy economy envisioned by the President.
  • A substantial percentage of funding is explicitly dedicated to public transportation, to help meet growing demand. New Jersey’s share of the $8.4 billion will be $524 million.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign recognized that Congress provided no criteria to ensure that STP funds are prioritized towards fixing New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding public transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes. As a result, decisions about the kinds of jobs to create and projects to fund with federal stimulus funds are in the hands of state and local officials. Tri-State Transportation Campaign urged these officials to use that flexibility to create the jobs that will both repair the system we have, and build a transportation system that meets the needs of an energy-efficient 21st Century economy. In New Jersey, that means funding needed projects like the Access to the Region’s Core commuter rail tunnel, which will double NJ Transit capacity to and from New York.

“Not all stimulus jobs are created equal,” stated Slevin. “State and local officials need to choose the projects that not only stimulate the economy now, but also fix our infrastructure, reduce our reliance on oil, and build a robust economy for decades to come.”

“We must seize this moment, rebuild New Jersey for our children and grandchildren, and put our communities on track to a sustainable future,” added Baldwin.

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The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working for a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in Connecticut,New Jersey, and downstate New York. www.tstc.org