N.J. struggles to find $2 billion for road, bridge repairs

New Jersey lawmakers are looking for ideas as they consider strategies to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund for financing essential road and bridge projects.

About 10 percent of the state’s bridges were deemed structurally deficient in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, while driving on roads in need of repair costs New Jersey motorists $3.5 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – about $600 per driver.

Much of the testimony at an Assembly Transportation Committee in Montclair Wednesday centered on a possible increase in New Jersey’s gasoline tax.

Adding a few cents to the gas tax would go a long way to raise money for transportation infrastructure improvements. said Ray Greaves of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union.

“If people saw their pennies were going toward new reliable and convenient transit services and keeping fares downs, they would buy into it,” he said.

At about 14 cents per gallon, New Jersey has one of the lowest gas levies in the country. In comparison, Pennsylvania charges about 42 cents, and Delaware’s tax is about 23 cents.

Some lawmakers questioned whether families struggling to deal with New Jersey’s high property taxes could afford higher gas taxes.

And Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski said charging a few cents more a gallon would not solve the state’s transportation needs.

“Four cents generates $200 million a year, maybe,” he said. “We have a $2 billion a year problem.”

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto and Gov. Christie have both said that all options are on the table as the discussions continue. Three other hearings are planned.

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