Opinion: Trouble ahead for New Jersey towns' road repair funding
By Times of Trenton guest opinion column
on March 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated March 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM
By Brian C. Wahler and Timothy C. McDonough
On June 30, it isn't a pothole that awaits New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund, it is the end of the road.
We have known this day was coming for well over a year. There have been public hearings. There have been press conferences. There have been editorials in the newspapers and interviews on radio and TV. But there has been no agreement on a sustainable solution to the problem.
Absent action very soon, our state will run out of the money it needs to fix our roads and bridges. There will be no funding to maintain New Jersey's ailing infrastructure. We can expect more wear and tear on our vehicles. We can expect more detours between us and our destination. And we should anticipate longer waits for response to any emergency needs.
We know how important it is to keep our vehicles in good working order. It's an investment that needs to be made to ensure our ability to get to work and earn a living. It's an investment in our family's safety and happiness. It's an investment that saves money, in the long run, and time.
When we are willing to invest the money that is needed for the upkeep of our roads and bridges, all the same advantages come back to benefit all of us. While the majority of New Jersey's roads and bridges are maintained by local governments, only state government can enact a solution. And while state government has time to delay action until much closer to the end of its fiscal year on June 30, local governments cannot wait much longer.
More than 550 municipalities operate on a calendar year budget. March 13 is the deadline for those municipalities to introduce their budgets. Final budgets need to be adopted by April 24.
That means that, right now, local elected officials have put the final touches on municipal budget plans. And they have done so knowing that the state Department of Transportation has advised them to anticipate no awards for local transportation funding.
Failure to invest in our infrastructure jeopardizes public safety, our economic vitality and the security of our communities. Regardless of whether you believe we are already in a crisis, or whether you believe that the crisis remains at some point in the distance, there is no doubt that a solution must be found for the Transportation Trust Fund. The case has been made and the case is clear: the fund needs to be replenished.
We have called on state policy makers to take decisive action now on this crucial state priority. We repeat that call today. We cannot continue kicking the can ever further down the road. Given the urgent need for road repairs, the can can't last much longer.
Brian C. Wahler is president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities and mayor of Piscataway. Timothy C. McDonough is chairman of the New Jersey League of Municipalities' Transportation Trust Fund task force and mayor of Hope Township.