Lettiere unveils $2.58 billion
capital program for DOT, NJ TRANSIT
Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere today presented a proposed $2.58 billion capital program for the Department of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT that advances Governor James E. McGreevey’s anti-sprawl “Smart Growth” initiative, while supporting over 100,000 jobs.
“This program will support jobs and encourage ‘Smart Growth’ development through targeted capital investments,” said Governor McGreevey. “Virtually half the funding will be provided for public transportation while new highway expansion is limited to just four percent of spending.”
Lettiere joined with NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George D. Warrington at a press conference to announce the proposed capital program for the 2004 fiscal year which begins July 1. The program, formally presented today to the Legislature for its approval, would be funded with $1.16 billion in state funding and $1.42 billion in federal funding.
“The program we are proposing will target ‘Fix It First’ repair projects, enhance safety and improve the quality-of-life,” said Lettiere. “Confronted with a $5 billion budget deficit, the Governor maintained the state’s commitment to transportation and to providing jobs.”
“NJ TRANSIT’s capital program continues our ‘Back to Basics’ investments in safety, state of good repair, and capacity,” said Warrington. “While we deliver more seats and more parking for today’s customers, we are advancing future capacity planning for a new trans-Hudson tunnel.”
Lettiere said both the DOT and NJ TRANSIT programs will focus on implementing Governor McGreevey’s “Smart Growth” policy through a variety of initiatives to focus transportation investment in urban and older suburban areas, protect open space, increase transportation options and reduce automobile traffic.
The focal point for both the DOT, through its Fix It First program, and NJ TRANSIT, through its Back to Basics program, will be targeted investment on repair and reconstruction projects. Major DOT projects include the reconstruction of sections of I-80 in Bergen County and I-295 in Camden and Burlington counties. Another $361 million is targeted for ongoing bridge repairs. For the second year in a row, just 4% of the overall program will be used for highway expansion projects, significantly lower than the 20 percent level of previous programs.
NJ TRANSIT’s program includes $222 million to improve the reliability of the rail system by replacing 13 miles of track and 53,000 ties, rehabilitating drawbridges and installing safety equipment aboard trains and along the right-of-way. NJ TRANSIT has proposed $172 million to acquire 100 bi-level passenger cars, the final installment of Comet V rail cars, and 33 diesel locomotives that pull longer trains, to provide an additional 30,000 seats.
The DOT has also reexamined its program to identify projects in suburban and rural areas that could encourage poorly planned sprawl development as currently conceived. The DOT will work with local officials and the Governor’s Office of Smart Growth to ensure that highway projects intended to relieve sprawl do not in fact create more problems. Lettiere said some projects may proceed unchanged after such reviews while others could be modified.
To encourage redevelopment in urban and older suburban areas, the DOT has proposed to advance a series of projects that would increase mobility and accessibility, such as improved access from I-280 to downtown Newark and from I-676 to downtown Camden. Substantial funding is proposed for the reconstruction of the Holland Tunnel approaches in Jersey City.
The program also proposes $265 million in Local Aid support for county and municipal road projects. As part of the program, $5 million is set aside for urban areas and $3 million is proposed for transportation improvements for communities designated as “centers of place” under the State Development and Redevelopment Guide Plan.
Safety improvements are addressed in the proposed program through a series of short term and long term highway intersection projects designed to reduce accidents and traffic circle elimination projects.
In addition, the DOT intends to work with local officials to revitalize older suburban strips that have declined with the advent of suburban shopping malls. The designated corridors are Route 130 in Burlington County, Route 46 east of I-287, Route 22 in Somerset and Union counties and Route 9 in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The entire Proposed Fiscal Year 2004 Capital Program is available on NJDOT’s web site and is broken down by projects, counties and routes.