For immediate release: November 4, 2009
Statement on New Jersey election
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign congratulates Governor-elect Chris Christie. Christie will face immense challenges in the years ahead, but one he cannot ignore is the growing gap in transportation funding, especially for public transit.
The Transportation Trust Fund is running on empty and Governor Christie will have to make tough choices to keep our roads and bridges safe, our public transportation system running, and our transit fares affordable. Governor-elect Christie has vowed to use the resources we have for transportation needs, without raising additional revenue. He has said previous borrowing to replenish the Trust Fund was "unconscionable" and undercut the fund's purpose: providing a stable, long-term financial resource for transportation projects without adding to the state's debt. We agree. But we also believe that with 100% of the fund’s revenues going toward debt service by 2012, this is an unlikely outcome absent new sources of revenue.
Without bold policy, the new administration will be forced to either decimate road and transit spending or plunge taxpayers, and their children and grandchildren, further into debt. NJ cannot afford either scenario. The Governor-elect must rise to that challenge in order to protect New Jersey’s economic and environmental health. In particular, the Governor will have to address the escalating demand for public transportation and heed calls from Washington DC to invest in more sustainable transportation projects. Public transit use in NJ has risen nearly 50% over the past decade -- twice the rate of driving -- and over 700 people still die on our roadways every year, 20% of them as pedestrians.
As the Transportation Trust Fund heads closer to insolvency, Governor Christie will have to ensure that NJ residents are getting the most for their transportation dollar. This will mean redirecting existing state revenue and reevaluating indefensible projects. Right now, the NJ Turnpike Authority is spending $3.5 billion to widen two toll roads, the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Both projects fly in the face of sustainable transportation policy and prudent fiscal management. Congestion relief on the roadways can be bought at a fraction of the price.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.