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Transportation Funding Freeze Could Affect Repairs to Nichol Avenue and Georges Road

NJDOT Places Freeze on Funding for Municipal Projects Depending on Transportation Trust Fund
Georges and Nichol
The intersection of Georges Road and Nichol Avenue is one of the most difficult intersections for pedestrians to navigate. Google Maps

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Jamie Fox has enacted a freeze on Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) aid to municipal transportation projects.

The freeze, which had gone into effect on January 20, came in response to a stalemate in the New Jersey Legislature about how the Transportation Trust Fund should be funded.

Kevin Israel, a spokesperson for the NJDOT, told New Brunswick Today that the freeze would impact any municipal projects that request TTF funding between the date of the freeze and July 1, the beginning of the new "fiscal" year for the state government.

New Brunswick city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw told New Brunswick Today that construction and repairs on Nichol Avenue and Georges Road could be impacted by the freeze.

The city had sent in an application to the DOT in November 2014, requesting additional funding for the two projects.

The Transportation Trust Fund is devoted to statewide transportation projects and repairs. 

Created in 1984, the fund would annually receive $365 million through the collection of tolls and a 2.5 cents per gallon gas tax. 

As of 2014, the fund was $14 billion in debt, with the majority of money in the fund being used to pay off that debt. 

Since the fund's creation, much of the money had gone not into long-term planning endeavors as it was intended, but instead went to paying off short-term repairs and basic maintainence.

The fund runs dry on July 1, and the approval of more money into the fund would require a deal between legislators of a new life source for the trust fund.

On one side, legislators such as Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto are taking a stand with the DOT Commissioner in support of an increase to the gas tax. 

However, poll after poll shows widespread public oppostion to such a tax.   But the numbers are shifting, These include the recent Monmouth University Poll, which showed 52% of its respondents opposing the hike. 

Governor Christie on the other hand, leaned more towards the idea of swapping a revenue enhancer, possibly a tax on petroleum coming into New Jersey, in exchange for a sales tax elmination.

Many substandard bridges, roads, tunnels and railways, and scores of travelers, could be at risk.  

Commissioner Fox had also ordered the review of 500 transportation structures statewide, such as bridges.

The order came in light of the collapse of a bridge in Cincinatti, Ohio, that claimed the life of a construction worker.  

Out of the 6,600 bridges in New Jersey, just over 600 of them are structurally deficient, while a further 1,700 were functionally obsolete 

A structurally deficient bridge is one that has deterioration to one or more of its components, while a functionally obsolete bridge is one that was built using outdated standards and methods.

DOT Spokesperson Kevin Israel, however, would not specify on the structures that would be reviewed, citing "security reasons."

However, a 2013 report sent out by the National Bridge Inventory showed that New Brunswick has one structurally deficient bridge, that being the Route 18 southbound crossing over Route 1.

But that is presently being replaced as part of a massive construction project.

New Brunswick also has three functionally obsolete bridges, including the Landing Lane Bridge, the Albany Street Bridge, and the Route 18 northbound ramp near the corner of George and Huntington Street.

A review of the Federal Highway Administration's National Bridge Inventory shows several high-priority bridges in the state of New Jersey. 

Of the 40 mentioned, the three most serious in Middlesex County are the Route 35 bridge in Perth Amboy, the Park Avenue Bridge in South Plainfield, and the Route 27 bridge in North Brunswick. 

Fully repairing Middlesex County's bridges would cost an estimated $380 million.

The only counties who bridges were rated worse than Middlesex in the report cards were Hudson, Burlington, Bergen and Monmouth.