Legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie boosting transportation spending by $400 million will have little effect on South Jersey.
The measure, signed by the governor last week with support from labor unions around the state, dedicates $260 million to fix roads and bridges and an additional $140 million to NJ Transit for safety improvements.
Most of those projects, however, are in North and Central Jersey. Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties will see a total of four projects completed. They include repaving Route 40 in Hamilton Township, repaving Route 9 in Dennis and Upper townships, bridge deck repairs on Route 55 near Vineland, and dredging in Lacey Township.
South Jersey will see some upgrades to its NJ Transit vehicles and stations, including new cameras on buses, more security cameras at bus garages and rail stations, and an updated phone app to buy tickets and check schedules, among other improvements.
South Jersey gets shortchanged when it comes to state aid.
Still, the lack of extra funding for road projects in the area from the recent legislation is a disappointing blow to some.
Local politicians, however, insist funding is coming.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who voted in favor of the bill, said he hopes his cooperation on this issue will lead to politicians in North Jersey cooperating with him when he proposes funding for projects on the Garden State Parkway, Route 55 and roadwork in Atlantic County.
“There are some projects that we need help with down here,” he said, adding he thinks the area got shortchanged by the legislation. “It doesn’t mean that those projects (in North Jersey) don’t need to be done. I’m not mad that the other projects are being done.”
Van Drew also acknowledged that the state played a role in recent years in the removal of traffic lights along the parkway near the southern shore points, construction at Exit 0 and the demolition of the Beesleys Point Bridge that once connected Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said this bill is one of many that will be coming down the line.
“While Atlantic County received less project funding than what we anticipated this go-round, this isn’t the end,” he said.
Mazzeo’s counterpart in the Assembly, Republican Chris Brown, said that while he’s grateful for the state’s help on projects throughout the county, he thinks the county should receive more in the future.
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“So while I’m pleased the state will spend over $21 million this year to fix the Beach Thorofare Bridge (on Route 30 entering Atlantic City) and fill the potholes that could swallow a car on Route 30, Route 40, Route 49, Route 50, Route 152 and Route 322, I believe the state needs to provide more resources for Atlantic County’s infrastructure,” he said.
Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said he was disappointed the county only got one project but added that the Department of Transportation was looking for state projects that were ready to go to construction in the near future.
The $400 million is on top of the $1.6 billion the state has committed to road and bridge work through its Transportation Trust Fund for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The fund was replenished after lawmakers passed a bill raising the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon last year.
Projects halted by the state shutdown while debating the gas tax, including flood mitigation on the west end of Wellington Avenue in Atlantic City, are now under construction or will begin soon.
Counties in the area get some of the lowest funding from the TTF. Foster said Cape May County gets the lowest of any county in the state with $1 million annually for bridgework and $1.6 million for roadwork.
The allocation is based on mileage of roads and population.