The Christie administration will start shutting down hundreds of transportation projects in New Jersey Friday night. The suspension of construction work for at least a week could have a big economic impact.
Greg Lalavee, the business manager of Operating Engineers Local 825, says the shutdown will affect hundreds of heavy equipment operators and mechanics.
“It comes right in the middle of the height of the construction season. This is when they store a little bit to make sure they can make mortgage payments and tuition payments during the wintertime.”
Anthony Attanasio is the executive director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association. He says suspending work on the projects could add 10 percent to contract costs.
“There are materials, there is equipment that must be secured and unfortunately for the taxpayer many of those costs that are going to be borne by the contractors are going to eventually be paid by the taxpayer.”
The New Jersey Department of Transportation challenges Attanasio’s statement that the shutdown would raise the cost to contractors by 10 percent. “NJDot is not aware of any industry standard for demobilization costs and has no idea where this number came from,” said a statement issued by the state transportation agency.
Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski says be believes the shutdown isn’t necessary.
“We all understand that the lack of new funding for the Transportation Trust Fund means that the planning and the implementation of all the new projects that everybody had hoped for has to be put on hold. But for the projects that are already started, for the projects for which a representation was made that the money is there, it’s a little mystifying as to why the administration would play this game.”
Christie says he’s protecting the health, safety, and welfare of residents by ensuring money left in the Trust Fund is spent only on essential projects.
Martin Robins, the director emeritus of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, says the governor’s decision to list all the transportation projects that are being suspended is a huge shock.
“It finally became evident how much there is to do and how silent the governor has been about these needs and how derelict I think the executive branch has been in not making the public aware of how much there is on the agenda.”
Transportation advocates hope lawmakers and the governor will compromise soon on replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund so construction work can continue.
This story has been updated to include a statement from the NJDOT.