Senators: Bush's budget ignores NJ's trans needs

February 12, 2008 3:39:59 PM PST
A new study warning about congestion on New Jersey highways and the need to invest in transportation infrastructure comes as the Garden State's two U.S. senators said they'll fight huge cuts to the state's federal transportation money. The study, released Tuesday by the Alan M. Vorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, found New Jersey's highways the most congested in the nation and residents with the third-longest commutes.

It concluded that continued investment in transportation infrastructure is critical to stem traffic congestion and rising transportation costs.

"The study shows that keeping New Jersey moving is crucial in a state with extraordinary population density," the authors say in an accompanying statement.

The study by the state-funded university does not take a position on a plan by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to increase tolls in order to pay down debt and pay for transpiration projects.

Corzine's plan would hike tolls steeply on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

Every Republican lawmaker in the state - and some Democrats - oppose the plan.

The study also found that in 2005 the state spent $2.88 per passenger - less than the current cost of a gallon of gas - on NJ Transit rail, light-rail and bus service.

In exchange, the state received benefits in economic growth, reduced traffic congestion, energy savings, urban redevelopment and service to the disabled, the study concluded.

President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal 2009 includes major cuts to Amtrak, mass transit projects and airport infrastructure, and adds air travel fees.

Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both members of the Senate Budget Committee, vowed to fight Bush's proposals, which they said would weaken New Jersey's rail, sky and highway systems.

Bush's budget would cut Amtrak funding by $525 million, which the senators said would mean the end of service in the Northeast Corridor. Further, with $203 million less for mass transit than Congress authorized for fiscal 2009, projects like the new rail tunnel under the Hudson River could be delayed, they said in a joint statement.

Lautenberg and Menendez also said New Jersey would receive $17 million less for highways and bridges under Bush's proposal.

Newark Liberty International Airport, where delays are already among the worst in the country, would fall victim to Bush's proposed 20 percent cut in airport infrastructure, they said.

Like air travelers elsewhere, New Jerseyans would pay 20 percent more in security fees, up to $6 per flight.