Governor Christie orders a halt to state-funded transportation projects

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a news conference on the transportation trust fund Wednesday

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a news conference on the transportation trust fund Wednesday

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has issued an executive order that could lead to a shutdown of all non-essential projects funded by the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. The executive order ask state officials to submit a shutdown plan to him by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, 2016,

Christie issued the executive order shortly before the state’s $1.6 billion trust fund lost its authority for new borrowing at midnight Thursday and in the absence of a deal with lawmakers to replenish the account.

In a press release issued late Thursday night, Christie blamed senate Democrats for the failure to reach a deal. “Democrats are clearly conflicted over how to appease their public and private-sector union masters, because their union masters also are divided over the bipartisan tax fairness solution that passed the Assembly. The Senate’s inaction ignored the benefits the package would bring to the overburdened taxpayers of New Jersey, who would benefit daily from the sales tax cut it would provide and the retirement income tax elimination for 81 percent of senior citizens. The Senate’s inaction also ignored New Jersey’s necessary transportation infrastructure improvements, as well as the hundreds of private-sector workers who came to Trenton today with their jobs hanging in the balance, because the Senate failed to re-authorize this Transportation Trust,” Governor Christie said.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement Friday afternoon he is “disappointed Governor Christie has decided to act so quickly to freeze so many important transportation projects.”

“Most painful will be the workers laid off because of this immediate stoppage,” he said.

The Democrat-led Assembly approved a plan from Christie that raised the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon while lowering the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent.

Another opportunity to reach a deal to replenish the fund could be weeks away. 

In the meantime, spokespeople for New Jersey Transit and the state’s Department of Transportation said the agencies are creating a list of state-funded road and bridge construction projects affected by the executive order. They have until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday to come up with a plan to safely shut those projects down. 

“Any emergency work that may arise that affects public safety, such as emergency bridge work or repairing a downed traffic signal, will be done as necessary,” said NJDOT spokesman Steve Schapiro in a statement.

Projects funded by other sources, such as federal highway dollars, will continue, Schapiro said. 

(Correction: The lead paragraph was changed to clarify that only a shutdown plan was due by the July 2 deadline)

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.