Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pennsylvania Transportation Funding Crisis a Precursor For NJ?

PA Governor Ed Rendell called for a special session of the PA Legislature to fund a projected $472 million dollar transportation funding gap after the Federal Highway Administration rejected a bid to toll I-80. According to the Transport Politic Blog the Governor has proposed several solutions including raising the gas tax to 42 cents a gallon (3X higher than NJ's current 14 cents a gallon), tolling state roads, authorizing regions to tax themselves and introducing a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Fee. One State Representative proposed doubling transit fares to pay for the deficit (sound familiar?).

New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund, which was created in 1984 as a pay-as-you-go funding source for transportation investment, is now overburdened with debt and will go bankrupt by mid-2011. The Tri State Transportation Campaign cites a new report that the deficit created by the shortfall could be nearly 1 billion dollars a year with a potential loss of 1.6 billion more in federal matching funds.

What could this mean for bicycling and walking? It depends how you look at it. The lack of maintenance/construction on roads creates some interesting dynamics.
  • New Jersey's new complete streets policy roads should mean more sidewalks, bike lanes and better traffic signals for new road projects
  • Projects that widen intersections make bicycling and walking more difficult and dangerous.
  • Since the TTF contributes money to NJ TRANSIT another round of fare increases/service reductions is possible
  • Closed bridges reduce truck and motor vehicle traffic on connecting roads could make life easier for bicyclists who can often cross closed bridges.
  • Potholes make riding more uncomfortable and increases the risk of losing control of the bike.


Zoe said...

Great story John. Don't forget that even in good times, DOT only funds about half of the bike and pedestrian projects that NJ towns request.

NJ already has some of the worst roads in the nation, and pedestrians make up a full 27% of roadway deaths. If the TTF becomes insolvent, and the governor and legislature fail to raise enough revenue, bike and pedestrian projects will suffer, and the roads and sidewalks we already use will continue to deteriorate.

Andy B from Jersey said...

Don't forget that the new "Complete Streets" policy is only an internal DOT policy. With a new DOT commissioner and a new governor who seems very willing to break the unwritten rules of New Jersey governmental order (i.e. Cristie's refusal reappoint Supreme Court Justice John Wallace), I wouldn't be surprised if the Complete Streets policy is ignored or even overturned altogether.

Never mind, local a county governments crying poverty about adding bike/ped amenities to road projects which is where most of the work needs to be done.