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The Commissioner's Report

(archived)


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
will improve New Jersey's infrastructure

After months of planning, it’s time to get to work.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Obama last week, will send more than $1 billion to New Jersey to pay for much-needed improvements to our aging transportation infrastructure.

New Jersey’s share includes $652 million for highways and bridges and approximately $425 million for transit. The highway and bridge portion includes $19.5 million for pedestrian and bicycling improvements, streetscapes and other transportation enhancement projects. That total also includes approximately $162 million for county and local transportation priorities.

The investment is intended to create jobs and stimulate our ailing economy, and its timing is crucial. If these funds simply sit in a bank account somewhere, they will not mitigate the impact of the recession. We need to get the funds flowing into the economy quickly.

We are prepared to expedite the investment of stimulus funds. The measure signed by the President requires us to obligate 50 percent of our funds within 120 days and to obligate the balance within a year. We can move even faster: New Jersey will obligate all of our funds within the next 120 days. In addition, we anticipate that upon obligation of the funds, we can complete most of the projects within one year.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation's (NJDOT) share of the highway and bridge money is approximately $488.5 million, including the transportation enhancement funds. The balance, approximately $162 million, will be split among New Jersey’s three regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations and will be spent on county and municipal projects.

Over the past few months, NJDOT engineers identified more than $1.2 billion in infrastructure and design projects that were ready to go but lacked funding. The stimulus funds can advance these projects and provide a good down payment toward improving our aging bridges and pavement while creating good-paying jobs.

The federal funds will add to the record level of transportation spending underway under the state economic stimulus plan that Governor Corzine announced last year.

As the economy has soured, many states have cut back on their transportation capital programs. New Jersey has not done so. Collectively, NJ TRANSIT, NJDOT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority plan to spend $2.8 billion through December 2009. The federal stimulus funding for NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT will provide an additional $1 billion for transportation infrastructure.

We’re confronted by two serious challenges: a deep recession and a transportation infrastructure that is sorely in need of investment.

The money we receive under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offers us an opportunity to simultaneously confront both of those challenges by improving the condition of our infrastructure and mitigating the impact of the recession.

A poll conducted last month for Building America’s Future found that more than 80 percent of Americans believe that the federal and state governments should spend more money on improving our roads, rails and bridges.

However, there are some who doubt whether infrastructure spending really will stimulate the economy. Those critics tend to believe that government processes are cumbersome and government itself too slow-footed. They doubt we’ll be able to spend the money fast enough for it to have an impact on the economy.

We plan to prove these critics wrong by spending our share of the stimulus funds on projects with merit, expediting the contracting process, and closely monitoring projects and contracts to assure that these projects come in on time and on budget.

We’ve got our sleeves rolled up. We recognize the great opportunity the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act represents. We’re ready to take advantage of it.

Please contact me with questions or comments.

 
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  Last Updated:  March 13, 2009