From our wonderful friends at the Save Jersey Blog:
By New Jersey State Senator Mike Doherty (R-23)
There has been much discussion recently
about a report on state highway systems by the Reason Foundation that
found New Jersey’s roads to be the nation’s most expensive to build,
operate and maintain.
According to that report, New Jersey’s
state-administered highways cost taxpayers $2 million per mile, which
the Reason Foundation claims to be 12 times the national average, three
times the cost in the next highest state and four times the cost in New
The next most expensive state,
according to the Reason Foundation, is Massachusetts, which spends a
comparatively paltry $675,000 per mile. By most measures other than
cost, apparently, our highway systems and the conditions they face seem
We have similar population densities —
we are ranked first and they third in the nation — and our roads are
both heavily travelled.
We share harsh northeast winters and
maintain a comparable surface area of highway — they have 9,572 highway
lane miles to our 8,496.
We also have similarly sized highways,
with our state maintained roads averaging 3.65 lanes per mile and theirs
3.17 lanes per mile.
It also should be noted that
Massachusetts is home to America’s most-expensive transportation project
– the $24 billion “Big Dig” – that Bay State taxpayers will be paying
off for the next 20+ years.
Despite all of the similarities in
density, climate, actual area of road surface maintained and its own
massive transportation spending, Massachusetts still manages to build
and operate highways for what the Reason Foundation contends is
one-third of what New Jersey pays.
If those numbers are correct, New Jersey’s taxpayers should be outraged and policymakers should take action.
Some, including state Transportation
Commissioner Jamie Fox, have questioned the report’s findings and
underlying methodology. Those concerns are valid and deserve to be
Despite his objections, Commissioner
Fox concedes, however, that it is “more expensive to build a mile of
road in New Jersey,” and few dispute the claim that New Jersey drivers
and taxpayers pay more for our highways than anyone else in the nation.
It’s for that reason that the Reason
Foundation report has suddenly become a central issue in the growing
debate over how to address the long-term funding needs of the state’s
Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).
The TTF, which helps pay for road and
bridge projects around New Jersey, is in a perpetual state of financial
distress and debt. Some would say it’s broke.
While we shouldn’t base state
transportation funding policy on one organization’s report, we should
pay attention when a seemingly well-formulated analysis raises such
serious questions about where our money is going.
The Reason Foundation report, with its
shocking conclusions, has fueled the argument that our transportation
funding problem isn’t one of insufficient money, but of unreasonable
A TTF plan put forward by New Jersey
Democrats – who control both houses of the Legislature – doesn’t address
spending, however. They simply want to increase the state’s gas tax,
perhaps by 25 cents per gallon.
Such an increase would cost the average
New Jersey driver $300 more per year at the pump, and the additional
expense to our businesses would drive up the cost of virtually every
product and service sold in the state.
According to the Tax Foundation, New
Jersey residents already shoulder the second highest combined state and
local tax burden, driven by our state’s highest in the nation property
and business taxes, and sales and income taxes that are among the
Perhaps the only source of relief for
New Jerseyans in our entire tax structure is our gas tax, currently 14.5
cents per gallon, which is the second lowest in the nation.
Yet, this is precisely why Democrats see our gas tax as ripe for increasing. In their myopic view, we’re undertaxed!
Before we let Trenton politicians reach
into the pockets of taxpayers yet again, shouldn’t we demand that we
first find out why we spend so much more for our highways than every
Shouldn’t we ask why we spend so much
more than our peers, including Massachusetts, that have highway systems
that are so similar to ours?
I think so, which is why I will
introduce legislation requiring our own analysis of the factors that
drive New Jersey’s road costs and a look at other states to determine
how they are able to operate more efficiently.
If there were objections to the
methodology employed by the Reason Foundation, the study I am proposing
will be our opportunity to address those concerns and reach our own
I hope Commissioner Fox, Governor Christie and other legislators will agree that this is necessary.
Until we determine exactly why we spend
more than every other state, it will be impossible to lower our costs
or make informed decisions about how much funding is really needed to
complete important transportation projects at a cost reasonable to New