- Standoff over raising gas tax for transportation spurs move
- Freeze on $776 million in contracts while state ranks by need
Hundreds of road and rail projects will be halted by July 8 for at least a week while Republican Governor Chris Christie’s administration decides how to allot the last of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund.
The shutdown will affect resurfacing, hazardous-material reporting, rail bridge improvements, flood mitigation and airfield safety throughout the state, according to a list released late this afternoon by acting Governor Kim Guadagno, the chief executive while Christie is traveling in Italy.
In all, $775.6 million in contracted work will be prioritized because far less is left in the fund. Christie hasn’t said how much money remains.
The number of construction workers, engineers, surveyors and other professionals who potentially will be out of a job “cannot be known immediately,” said Brian Murray, a spokesman for the governor, in an e-mail. Projects deemed essential to health, safety and welfare will be exempted, as will federally funded work.
Christie, a two-term Republican, on June 30 ordered officials to identify all trust fund-financed projects after the state Senate didn’t vote on his plan to cut the state sales tax to 6 percent from 7 percent, and also to more than double the gasoline tax. The fuel revenue would underpin transportation spending of as much as $20 billion over a decade, though the lower sales tax would blow a $1.6 billion hole in the state budget by 2019, according to the nonpartisan legislative services office.
The current five-year, $8 billion Transportation Trust Fund will run dry next month. Roadwork will be halted by 11:59 p.m. on July 8 for at least seven days. The transportation department and New Jersey Transit, the nation’s largest statewide commuter transport system, “should use the intervening days to assess and prioritize the list of projects to obtain the greatest effect” from remaining funds, Guadagno said in a statement.