William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
(Gloucester City, NJ)(August 21, 2020)--How many times have you driven on the roadways in South Jersey and hit one pothole after the other? One of the worst streets in this area is Route 551, also known as Broadway. It begins in Camden and meanders through Gloucester City, Brooklawn, Westville, and beyond. Every few yards there is another bump. Despite numerous promises by local, county, state and federal politicians Route 551 aka Broadway remains in dreadful condition.
With all the recent increases in the state gas tax, you would think by now that highway and others would have been repaired. Come to find out the Garden State doesn't use all the money it collects from that tax to fix the highways despite what we have been told.
Searching for answers on why the state's roadways are so poor the first thing found was a 247wallst.com report on the "10 States Falling Apart".
Coming in at Number One with the worst infrastructure was New Jersey.
1. New Jersey
> Roadway in poor condition: 37.2% (6th highest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 8.1% of bridges (22nd highest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 104 (10.9 per 100 miles of track, the most out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $614 (22nd highest)
In New Jersey, 37.2% of roads are in poor condition, the sixth-largest share of any state, and far more than the 21.8% national figure. New Jersey is also one of the most congested states, with a mean travel time to work of 32.4 minutes the third-longest commute nationwide. According to data from the American Transport Research Institute, congestion and poor roads in New Jersey cost the trucking industry some $3.4 billion in 2016, the most of any state when adjusted for total miles of highway.
Rail transportation infrastructure in the state is in similarly poor condition. According to data from the Federal Railroad Administration of the DOT, from 2015 to 2019 there were a total of 104 train derailments in New Jersey. Adjusted for miles of railway, there were 10.9 derailments per 100 miles by far the most of any state.
Coming in at Number 6 is nearby Pennsylvania
> Roadway in poor condition: 27.3% (12th highest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 16.6% of bridges (5th highest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 236 (4.6 per 100 miles of track — 21st most out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $946 (7th highest)
A staggering 16.6% of bridges in Pennsylvania are in need of replacement or repair, more than double the 7.6% share of bridges nationwide that are considered structurally deficient. Much of the disrepair is attributable to age, as bridges in the state are 15 years older than the national average and are in need of modernization.
A relatively large share of roads in Pennsylvania is also in a state of disrepair. More than 27% of road surface in the state is in poor condition, well above the 21.8% national average.
To read how the top 10 states were chosen read here
According to the Center Square, New Jersey near the top of a recent analysis of what percentage of its gas tax proceeds are funneled toward projects beyond standard road improvements after a study revealed more than a third of its revenue from gas taxes are used for mass transit.
As a result the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, ranked New Jersey third among all states diverting gas taxes toward other initiatives. Researchers with the organization compiled their findings into a policy brief. That study indicated that 33.9 percent, or $360.4 million, of New Jersey’s gas taxes, were directed toward mass transit, according to a review of the state’s fiscal year 2018. A total of $1.06 billion was collected that year.
The Garden State has several specific accounts set in place to capture slices of the income stream. Ten percent, or $106.7 million, of the gas taxes collected in 2018, for example, went toward an account dedicated to New Jersey Transit’s rail infrastructure needs. In all, nine separate accounts are in place.
In the policy brief, Baruch Feigenbaum, senior managing director of transportation policy with the Reason Foundation, drew a correlation between gas tax diversions and roadway conditions.
“Unsurprisingly, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey not only have the three highest diversion rates but also rank at the bottom (45th, 48th, and 50th), respectively,” Feigenbaum wrote. According to The Center Square, Feigenbaum said, “Large diversions are common in northeast states, and drivers suffer where road quality is worse and costs higher than nationwide.”
Big picture, Feigenbaum in his analysis called on lawmakers in New Jersey and other states to reconsider the practice of diverting these funds for projects beyond roadway improvements.
“By violating the users-pay/users-benefit principle, diversion poses both immediate and long-term threats to transportation funding,” Feigenbaum wrote. “Diversions can leave roads and highways underfunded.”
For their part, New Jersey officials have been open about how gas tax funds are used. A 2019 news release from Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy pointed to a 2016 law that set the parameters for the current gas tax.
More than $4 billion in the past half-decade has gone toward New Jersey Transit projects, alongside local, county, and state road, and bridgework.
“This dedicated revenue stream has enabled us to disburse billions in funding across the state to bolster our transportation infrastructure and keep New Jersey moving forward,” State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said in a statement published by The Center Square.
Murphy raised the gas tax by 4.3 cents in October 2018. That increase, according to NorthJersey.com was a legacy of a deal struck between former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democrats in 2016 to raise the gas tax by nearly 23 cents to pay for construction projects across the state.
Language in the 2016 law required annual changes to the gas tax to generate roughly $2 billion a year for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road repairs and projects to fix the state’s crumbling bridges and mass-transit system.
In 2016 New Jersey’s infrastructure received a grade of D-plus from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which, in a report issued this past summer, classified over 550 bridges in the state as “structurally deficient” and in need of major repair work. At the time Christie, a Republican, has said that the gas tax will pay for an eight-year, $32 billion reauthorizations of the Transportation Trust Fund and that the money will be invested in infrastructure.
Before the increases, New Jersey's state gas tax stood for decades at 14.5 cents per gallon.