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Rutgers Capital Budget Request Sets the Stage for Massive Investment

$4.75 Billion Requested Over Next Seven Years to Expand Campuses in NB, Piscataway, Newark, & Camden
Innovation Park
An aerial view of the plans for Innovation Park@Rutgers.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University has requested slightly over $4.75 billion dollars from the state’s Commission of Capital Budgeting and Planning over the next seven years.

Capital projects are defined as acquisition of new land, new structures and equipment, and other projects whose cost of land, planning, furnishing, and equipment is estimated to be over $50,000. 

These requested funds are intended to support major improvements to the infrastructure on Rutgers’ New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden campuses in line with the vision of the school’s physical master plan entitled "Rutgers 2030."

Most ambitious of these plans is the proposed "Innovation Park@Rutgers" envisioned for the Livingston section the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus.

The project would consist of serveral buildings that would replace a wooded area on the outskirts of Livingston's 400-acre ecological preserve.

The university requested $920 million from the state to fund this project starting in 2019 and continuing through 2023, with half the funds coming in the first year.

According to Rutgers' Planning and Development Director Frank Wong, the project "involves identifying the best industry partners to collaborate with our academic programs."

"We are taking steps to approach that in a deliberate manner," Wong said.

When complete, officials say the new buildings will allow for Rutgers researchers to collaborate with corporate interests using high-tech computing and other facilities. 

Livingston, specifically the area surrounding Rutgers Business School (RBS) and the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), is slated for even more plans for immense change.

Rutgers requested $136 million from the state to partially fund a 175-room hotel and conference center adjacent to the two facilities.

In order to promote access to the underused ecological preserve, the university requested $23.9 million. Visitors may also check out a Rutgers sporting event, held at venues that are also set to receive major funding.

To improve the baseball, softball, and track and field facilities the university requested $227 million, which will eventually result in the relocation of the fields. Another $114 million was requested to expand the RAC to include a parking structure and additional athletic facilities.

After the Innovation Park, the next costliest line item is $365.4 million dedicated to improving information technology infrastructure at all campuses.

To justify this large cost the university claims that, “facilities for high performance computing and communications, data storage and management, advanced visualization, etc., as well as linkages to national and international CI,” are essential for maintaining Rutgers academic and research based competitiveness.

This is a major theme of the Rutgers 2030 plans, as the school strives to establish itself as a preeminent public research university.

In that vein, Rutgers has requested $70 million to construct 112,000 square feet of classroom space in a new engineering facility on the Busch campus, $60 million in library renovations, and $15 million towards planning a Coastal Research Center on the Cook Campus.

In short time, the landscape of College Avenue will also be reorganized if the plans go through.

The area facing the College Avenue Gymnasium, now occupied by the Brower Commons dining facility, is set to become a new "quadrangle" with expanded student facilities.

Rutgers requested $117.9 million to construct a replacement dining hall, and to begin construction after the $1 million demolition of Records Hall and surrounding facilities.

The existing Brower site would eventually make way for a new student center and lounge space.  Wong expects that project to begin during the summer of 2019. 

All of these buildings will be serviced by a heating plant replacing the current one that doesn’t meet US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, for which the university requested $59 million, along with $20 million worth of streetscape improvements.

The similarly aging Cook/Douglass campus is also primed to receive a facelift, starting with a $77 million request to renovate the Douglass Student Center into the area’s own transit hub.

An additional $32.55 million was requested to turn parking lot 70, directly behind the student center, into an underground parking structure with a public plaza above.

The university also requested $14 million to construct a the first of two bridges that would span George Street next to the school’s "river dorms" and surround a new transit hub at that site.

Additionally, a median will be installed in that stretch of road to prevent pedestrians from crossing without utilizing the bridges.

Additional high-density housing will be built in close proximity to these hubs to make commuting easier in the future.

For instance, new student housing is planned for the area surrounding the proposed Douglass transit hub, after Rutgers demolishes Davison Hall, the former Douglass bookstore, and a greenhouse, for which they requested slightly over $1.4 million.

Partly to make up for the loss of the greenhouse, Rutgers also requested $10 million towards expanding the existing facilities on College Farm Road.

Additionally, the Ruth Adams and Biological Sciences buildings will be converted into student housing at a cost of $51.8 million. Lost classroom space would be made up for by $69.7 million in renovations to Classroom Buildings 1 & 2 on Cook/Douglass.

These projects, as well as expanded biking infrastructure, are intended to diminish the need to build costly parking garages.

"There is a desire to build more structure parking, but deck parking is extremely expensive to build," Wong said.

Still, parking on or near the Rutgers campus, especially the College Avenue campus, is still a source of frustration for many students.  Several media outlets reported last summer that Rutgers had given out more than $5 million in parking tickets during the prior school year.

Douglass campus' iconic "Horse Bridge," which spans George Street and connects Hickman Hall to Loree Hall, is not ADA compliant. The University requested $11 million to build a replacement.

Another request points out that, “There are over 35 lineal miles of university-owned roadways and over 150 parking lots accommodating over 20,000 stalls, which must be repaved and renewed on a cyclical basis.”

To this end, the university requested $209 million for roadway repairs on all three campuses, $50 million to build a parking structure to replace the surface lots on the Busch section of Piscataway, $17 million to expand the loop of roads around Busch, and $1.7 million to expand parking lot 97 across from Cook/Douglass’ Food Science Building.

A plurality of the capital funds requested, $1.12 billion, support a bevy of projects focused on repair or installation of essential systems in buildings across all three campuses, including new heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) systems, improved fire safety systems, new roofing and windows, and upgrades to make buildings compliant with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

The remainder of the funds requested are largely dedicated to improvements to the Newark and Camden campuses.

Most substantial among these funds is a $60 million request to help fund land acquisition. Due to the competitive real estate market in these dense cities, this source of investment is essential to ensuring the university’s ability to expand in the future.

The New Jersey Commission on Capital Budgeting and planning is comprised of 12 members who receive these requests, evaluate the necessity of the capital projects, and submit a revised budget to the state legislature for approval.

The state’s legislature and executive branch are each represented by four members, while the remaining four are selected from the public. Of these public members, the Governor appoints two while the Senate President and Speaker of the State Assembly each appoint one.

Current public members are professionally employed in the fields of urban planning, property management, economic development, and as a lawyer.

All of Rutgers requests were filed in May of 2016 and have gone into effect this fiscal year.

These projects are funded through various bond programs, annual "pay-as-you-go" appropriations of capital, and through leasing.

Different projects are funded by each means. For example, automobiles are often leased by the state, while projects such as roofing repairs receive a portion of annual appropriations.