2006 Transportation Budget
of Commissioner Jack Lettiere
New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Jack
Lettiere provided testimony for Assembly Budget Committee regarding
the Fiscal Year 2006 NJDOT and NJ Transit capital and operating
budgets. He provided the following opening statement:
Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to testify before the
Committee to discuss Governor Codey's transportation budget for
Fiscal Year 2006.
is an honor for me to appear before the Committee for the third
year, and apprise you of the operation of the New Jersey Department
of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT.
Department's FY06 budget follows Governor Codey's clear directive
to shrink the size of state government and reduce the burden on
taxpayers. We've cut spending, increased efficiency and redirected
resources to critical areas.
Department's $290 million operating budget is supported by $92
million in general state revenues. This amount is unchanged despite
a 32% increase in electric & natural gas costs, and a 25%
increase in fuel costs for the Department in the last two years
the Department of Transportation, we started cutting at the top.
We trimmed the budget of the Commissioner's Office by more than
10%, and pursuant to the Governor's directive to cut 500 positions
statewide, we are reducing our workforce without resorting to
instituted efficiencies, including reassigning vehicles based
on an internal vehicle-use audit initiated by the Department that
will result in a savings of $167,000 in mileage reimbursement
is no better example of the Department's commitment to efficiency
and cost-savings than our new HYPERBUILD program.
allows us to make repairs to roads and bridges faster and at a
much lower cost.
minimizes impacts on motorists by shaving years off projects,
and saves hundreds of millions of dollars in construction, design,
and road user costs. To do this, we're using new creative and
cutting-edge design and construction technologies. Our goal is
to become the lowest cost, highest output Department in the nation.
38 Pedestrian Bridge in Cherry Hill - saving over 2 years
& $1.7 million;
Pavement Rehabilitation in Union & Essex – saving 5
years & $73 million;
42 & College Road – saving 4 years & $10 million.
Chairman that is what the taxpayers demand and deserve.
commitment to public service is evident in the way we deploy our
workforce of 3,917. We are planners, engineers and maintenance
workers responsible for keeping New Jersey 's transportation system
in safe working order.
Department has 640 maintenance workers. These are the men and
snow, remove graffiti, repair guide-rail, clean drainage
systems, and maintain 15,000 lane miles of State highways;
250,000 potholes each year;
33,000 acres of grass along highways;
to 20,000 emergencies & 7,000 accidents;
30,000 cubic yards of litter from roads.
the Department's responsibilities have increased over the years,
our ability to address maintenance has become more difficult as
our workforce and appropriations have decreased.
1987, the Department has experienced a 40% decrease in our maintenance
force. This has had an enormous and direct impact on our ability
to perform necessary maintenance functions.
our overall workforce, only 4% are in management. The remainder
are engineers who design and build our projects, and employees
who keep highways in working order. Unclassified employees make
up only 1.1% of the Department's workforce.
addition to operations and maintenance, the Department makes significant
capital investments in roads, bridges, and public transportation
through the State's Transportation Trust Fund, which funds our
annual Capital Program.
in transportation yields just more than concrete and steel for
our 8.5 million residents.
FY06 Capital Program will stimulate New Jersey 's economy by facilitating
the movement of over $7 billion worth of goods and services, and
directly supporting over 100,000 jobs.
program rebuilds our infrastructure, enhances safety, eases congestion,
provides property tax relief, and improves quality of life for
support for this $2.7 billion program is critical to maintaining
the quality of life New Jersey residents expect and deserve.
state's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) underwrites 45% of the
total FY06 Program; the Federal Government funds the rest.
Capital Program will invest heavily in safety improvements to
roads and bridges, and also at critical accident-prone intersections.
continues to prioritize the Safety First initiative, expands the
Median Cross-over crash program, designates Safe Corridors where
needed, and funds the Safe Streets to Schools program.
also prioritizes the repair of existing roads and bridges. Funding
for new capacity is less than 3% of the total program, instead,
the Department will focus on congestion relief projects that improve
traffic flow, remove bottlenecks, and make intersections work
program includes $390 million to rebuild some of the most fragile
infrastructure, bridges. Seventy-seven will be rehabilitated in
will invest $325 million in local aid to towns & counties.
Local Aid funding provides property tax relief by funding roadwork
that would otherwise be paid for through local property taxes.
Emergency Service Patrol program will be expanded and a new program
to improve the functioning of traffic signals is funded.
Department will utilize, for the first time, a federal financing
program called GARVEE to pay for one of the largest bridge projects
in state history – replacing the Route 52 Causeway connecting
Ocean City and Somers Point, a vital evacuation route for the
four-bridge complex is in extremely poor condition. We receive
regular complaints from the public regarding large pieces of concrete
falling from the bridge's decks, and we frequently close lanes
to make emergency repairs.
spending $5 million in emergency repairs in 1998, the Department
still spends up to $800,000 annually for emergency repairs on
the bridge. Rebuilding this bridge can't wait any longer.
obvious criticism is that we are borrowing against future federal
funds. However, without the GARVEE option, the Department would
not have realistic means to move forward with current resources.
traditional funding methods would consume all funding for the
region for the next five years and would prevent the Department
from constructing other important projects.
Chairman, it has been well documented that NJ TRANSIT faces a
$60 million budget deficit. A fare increase was always viewed
as a last resort, and the solution was very carefully considered.
has been a six-month process to determine how to cover this shortfall.
The process has included 13 public hearings and nearly 500 emails,
letters, and verbal and written comments from the public, and
I assure you, we have taken all comments seriously.
response to public comment, NJ TRANSIT made deep cuts in spending
by reducing costs – including overhead and salary costs – and
generating new revenues for a combined improvement of more than
cuts and internal efficiencies allowed NJ TRANSIT to reduce the
overall fare increase by 20%. This has not been a pleasant process,
but it has been a carefully considered, and deliberative one.
No one wants to raise fares, and this proposal was a last resort
in order to keep buses and trains running.
improvements, taken together with investments in our roads and
bridges fund a balanced attack on congestion.
TRANSIT will continue its “Back to Basics” approach by investing
$426 million in core infrastructure to maintain the State's rail,
bus and light rail systems at a state of good repair.
will invest $88 million in long overdue Rail Station improvements,
and allocate $177 million needed to annually replace 13 miles
of track, over 50,000 new rail ties, and improve 8 culverts.
TRANSIT will continue with the development of the Positive Train
Stop rail safety program.
$15 million will be invested in park and ride projects to combat
congestion and make transit an even more attractive option.
the past year, over 6,000 new parking spaces have been created
for commuters, and 3,000 more will be added in FY06.
TRANSIT will also be moving forward with initiatives that are
critical to New Jersey 's future – including a new rail tunnel
under the Hudson , known as ARC (Access to the Region's Core).
Chairman, there has been much written and broadcast about the
legitimate expenditure of our Transportation Trust Fund. Let me
assure you that we have complied with legislative provisions.
fact, the State Auditor has consistently certified the handling
of the TTF and has repeatedly characterized expenditures as reasonable
and appropriate. In ten years of audits the Department has never
been cited for inconsistencies or inappropriate actions or expenditures.
believe the State Auditor's analysis is important to consider
as you review the Department's FY06 budget and Capital Program.
Chairman, I take my appointment seriously – I have a responsibility
to provide the best possible transportation system at the lowest
possible cost to the taxpayers.
is why I understand and appreciate the Committee's goal of reducing
spending and increasing the efficiency of State government. I
look forward to working with the Committee to achieve this goal
while also recognizing the necessity of the critical functions
performed by the Department of Transportation.
have many sleepless nights over the things that can't be done,
the safety of roads and bridges, the quality of our snow removal
efforts in the winter, our ability to repair potholes in the spring,
to respond to emergencies, and to keep trains & buses running
safely and on time.
agencies do not deal in abstracts; we deal with reality and people's
lives everyday. Our mission, and my responsibility, is to ensure
their safety, respect their time and improve their quality of
believe that we are headed in the right direction and have made
significant strides in meeting these goals. However, there is
more to be done and, I won't be satisfied until it is done.