A proposal to use Casino Reinvestment Development Authority funds to build a full interchange where the Garden State Parkway meets Route 30 is a clever campaign issue - but a bad idea.
Incumbent 9th District Republican lawmakers Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove and Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf, whose district includes Galloway Township, are trumpeting legislation they have introduced to use CRDA funds to pay for a new Route 30 interchange at parkway Exit 40.
The Route 30 interchange has become a hot topic among Galloway Township residents since the New Jersey Turnpike Authority came to the township last year to discuss projects that will expand parkway exits at mileposts 41 and 44. Residents at those hearings argued that priority should be given to a full interchange at Exit 40 instead, which would help businesses along Route 30, also know as the White Horse Pike.
Connors, Gove and Rumpf aren't the only area politicians pushing for a full interchange at Exit 40. Currently, there is no direct access to Route 30 if you're driving north on the parkway, and no direct access to the southbound lanes of the parkway if you're driving west on Route 30. A full interchange would certainly be safer than the maneuvers drivers currently make through the parkway rest area near Jimmie Leeds Road.
But the mechanism the 9th District lawmakers are pursuing - using CRDA funds for the project - would be wrong.
First, throwing money at the Exit 40 project won't make it happen any sooner. The turnpike authority already has sources of funding, and it prioritizes projects based on traffic studies. The authority has said it is taking another look at studies concerning Route 30, but no parkway projects happen overnight. They require years of planning.
But more important, we must not return to the days when CRDA money was up for grabs for projects, no matter how worthy, outside Atlantic City.
In 2010, as part of a package of bills pushed by Gov. Chris Christie to revitalize Atlantic City, state lawmakers restricted the use of CRDA funds to projects within the resort. Christie and legislative leaders pledged to give the city five years to turn around its fortunes before they entertained expanding casino gaming to other parts of the state.
While those efforts continue, no one who cares about Atlantic City and the money it contributes to the state budget - and that ought to include the representatives from the 9th District - should forget what's at stake. And no one should try to divert the CRDA money that could make such an important difference in the city's future.