New Jersey’s infrastructure is on the brink of catastrophic failure. One in 11 bridges are in need of repair. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are lost each day to deficient pipes. Public transportation projects are stalled. New Jersey’s infrastructure failures are one of the largest reasons why New Jersey is among the states with the greatest inequality and the lowest levels of economic mobility. In the last year, commuters have faced derailments and breakdowns that have delayed thousands and cost a young mother her life. NJ Transit is in crisis, and we cannot wait any longer to fix our system and get moving again.
Re-investing in New Jersey’s infrastructure is vital to jump starting the economy and critical to all of our communities. Access to public transportation and an efficient commute will ensure that everyone in New Jersey has a fair shot at a good quality of life. Infrastructure spending, when done right, can be a tool to combat inequality. Jim’s great-grandfather was a tunnel driller on the Holland Tunnel, a project that gave economic opportunity not only to those who worked on it, but also to communities throughout Essex and Hudson County. Jim wants to make sure that anytime we invest in infrastructure, we take steps to ensure that prosperity is shared. Jim will ensure that infrastructure spending is used to bring people together, not further divide them.
As Governor, Jim will prioritize two things: fixing the failures and mistakes of the past and investing in infrastructure in a way that best prepares us for a vibrant economic future.
To repair New Jersey’s transportation system and return it to its status as a world-class asset, Jim’s priorities will be to:
1) Develop a unified vision for a transit system.
For too long, NJ transit policy has operated on a “find and fix” strategy of simply making it through each day and dealing with the latest crisis at hand. With expertise developed at Rutgers National Transit Institute, NJ must develop a systems approach that considers cargo and consumer transportation by roadway, railway, air and water, in an integrated fashion to ensure that people and goods get to where they need to be safely, reliably and affordably. While immediate crises must be addressed, long term improvement requires a much more comprehensive plan.
2) Fund NJ Transit so it can undertake necessary repairs and upgrades.
The last year has been a disaster for public transportation options in New Jersey. New Jersey’s transit system is in crisis. NJ Transit broke down last year more than any transit system in the country—a direct legacy of Governor Chris Christie cutting state funding by more than 90%.
In March, a New Jersey Transit train derailed and not only affected NJ Transit, but disrupted service on Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road, effectively crippling transit for the entire region. Governor Chris Christie was nowhere to be found.
Jim, on the other hand, was out on the platform in Hoboken and Broad Street Station in Newark with constituents, hearing their concerns. When Jim worked as an attorney, he was a daily New Jersey transit commuter. His wife, the President and CEO of a major non-profit, continues to commute into New York and last fall missed the fatal rail disaster in Hoboken by less than an hour. Jim and his family know firsthand how transit failures affect the state. Jim will ensure that NJ Transit has the funding necessary to install Positive Train Control and other safety mechanisms that will ensure passengers can ride NJ Transit with peace of mind.
3) Expand mass transit by building the Gateway Tunnel and the new Port Authority Bus Terminal.
If Gov. Christie had not ended the ARC Tunnel project, resulting in the loss of a $3 billion federal New Starts grant, New Jersey might not be at this point of crisis. In order to make up for lost time, Jim will work with the congressional delegation to pressure the federal government for the necessary funding and work on funding alternatives, including public-private partnerships.
4) Appoint experts to boards and commissions, rather than political appointees.
To ensure that the current crises never happen again, Jim will appoint experts in transportation systems as well as behavioral scientists who can help optimize the efficiency, safety and usefulness of the public transportation system.
5) Invest in South Jersey’s transportation infrastructure.
Counties in South Jersey get some of the lowest funding from the TTF. Jim will help the TTF distribute funding more equally throughout the state, especially in South Jersey, which has been severely underfunded for bridge and road work. Jim will invest in increasing rail and bus access for South Jersey residents, who are often left behind in the transit discussion.
6) Implement a system of predictive maintenance to catch problems before they become crises.
It’s not just our trains — New Jersey’s roads and bridges are in decay. Due to structurally deficient roads, New Jersey drivers have the highest cost of congestion and vehicle repairs. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, driving on deficient roads costs New Jersey motorists a total of $13.1 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC), congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
For too long, we have reacted to transportation and infrastructure crises rather than proactively moving to head them off. Jim would adopt the policy of predictive maintenance, where data is analyzed to discover and react to problems before they become crises. In a predictive maintenance system, performance criteria are meticulously kept and problems can be recognized when they are just beginning. Jim will look to successful models from other states that have improved traffic flow in both road systems and rail systems through smart management systems and implement those systems in New Jersey.
7) Invest in Transit Oriented Development to create vibrant communities that fund public transportation.
As Governor, Jim will use the strategy of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to help fund transit projects using private capital. TOD has been successfully deployed in other communities, where value-capture systems have been used around TOD locations to finance public transit systems and revenue from development has been used for transit upgrades and maintenance. Jim will also invest in infrastructure jobs, especially in economically disadvantaged communities and use impact on inequality as criteria for transportation projects. Building Transit Oriented Development projects can create vibrant communities with mixed-use buildings, oriented around an efficient public transportation system.