Statement on the Need to Renew and Replenish the Transportation Trust Fund
And to Increase Local Aid
Presented to the Senate Transportation Committee
By Honorable Brian Wahler, Mayor of Piscataway and
President, NJ League of Municipalities and
Timothy C. McDonough, Mayor of Hope Township and
Past President, NJ League of Municipalities and
Chairman, League Transportation Trust Fund Review Committee
Monday, December 8, 2014
Good morning, Senator Sacco and Members of the Committee. Thank you for allowing us to present some testimony from the municipal perspective.
Just last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported that 651 of the 6,554 bridges in New Jersey (9.9%) are considered structurally deficient and 1,717 (26.2%) are considered functionally obsolete. That report also estimated that driving on roads in need of repair costs New Jersey motorists $3.476 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $601 per motorist, and that 66% of New Jersey’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
Local officials know that investments in these assets must be made. Failure to do so can compromise the safety of the public, the economic vitality of our communities and the security of our neighborhoods.
As we see it, New Jersey faces three challenges, with regards to transportation capital funding. We must:
- Reauthorize the Transportation Trust Fund to ensure adequate and reliable funding to meet State and local transportation infrastructure funding needs for the next 10 years.
- Increase Local Aid funding to ensure adequate and reliable funding to meet all local transportation infrastructure needs.
- Increase the municipal share of Local Aid funding and ensure fair funding for all municipalities.
In the first year of the Transportation Trust Fund (FY 1985), Local Aid funding represented almost 22 % of total Transportation Capital funding. By FY 1997, Local Aid was down to 16%. By FY 2004, we were down to 12%. In FY 2013 (the last year for which we have audited numbers, Local Aid represented 15% of the total.
Average Local Aid funding over the 29 years was just under 15%. If the funding level would have remained at the original 22%, total Local Aid for the 29 years would have been $5,726.5 million, instead of $3,878 million. At 22%, Local Aid in FY 2013 would have been $249.4 million.
Leaving NJ Transit aid out of the equation, and comparing only the amounts appropriated for State and local roadways and bridges, in FY ’85 Local Aid represented 25% of the total. And the annual average for Local Aid, over the life of the program has been about 25%.
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that New Jersey's municipalities are responsible for 64 percent (28,539 center line road miles) of our roads. County governments are responsible for another 22 percent (6,649 center line road miles). Together, local governments are responsible for 39 percent of our bridges. Local roadways and bridges carry about 55 percent of all traffic.
Again, subtracting NJ Transit funding, if remaining aid was distributed on the basis of traffic carried, in FY 2013 Local Aid (at 55%) would have been $361.6 million.
If it were based on road mileage, municipalities (at 64%) would have received $420.8 million, and counties (at 22%) would have gotten $144.7 million. Total Local Aid would, then, have been $565.5 million.
Even if only based on our respective responsibility for bridges, at 39%, Local Aid would have been $256.4 million.
Given these facts, we welcome the hope offered by the statements of Senator Sweeney, of Speaker Prieto and of other Legislative Leaders.
The need for investments in local roads and bridges has not decreased since 1985. No one has suggested that it will decrease in the future. So given the extent of the local infrastructure, and given the need for strong and steady investment in that infrastructure, we will call for assurances that Local Aid will represent, at a minimum, $350 million. And we will call for adjustments in funding, to account for the effects of inflation.
We welcome your effort to prioritize New Jersey’s transportation funding, and to put our State’s economic future on solid footing. Without bold action on this matter, New Jersey cannot move forward.