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No solution in sight, all transportation work shutdowns likely to continue

Friday, July 15, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 07/15/16

New Jersey’s acting transportation commissioner said so far none of the roughly $650 million in suspended construction projects are slated to spring back into action following a one-week temporary shutdown initiated because there’s not a source of money for the Transportation Trust Fund. Acting Commissioner Richard Hammer said Department of Transportation, NJ Transit and local projects are still being assessed as to whether any should be immediately restarted due to health and safety reasons. He said that work should be complete within the next couple of days. Christie’s executive order had called for it to be done by Friday.


“We have not as of yet come across any projects that should continue to move forward,” Hammer said.

Hammer was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which unanimously endorsed his nomination to head the Department of Transportation. He has been the acting commissioner since October 2015, replacing Jamie Fox – who, incidentally, was criminally charged Thursday for a matter stemming from work as a United Airlines lobbyist, not for his work at DOT. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, questioned Hammer about the process of shuttering construction work – asking whether there had been “a little planning before the executive order took place” – with nobody still having a handle on the cost impacts.


“Everything was shut down without much thought for what the financial implications might be,” Weinberg said.  Hammer said it’s not possible to know the costs, which are estimated by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association at $39 million to shut down and eventually restart projects, plus $1.7 million a week to maintain safety and facilities at job sites. “There really is no measure of the cost of the shutdown at this point. It’s difficult to determine that until after it has completed itself,” Hammer said. “Obviously there will be many costs that will be accrued, both by contractors and others, and those are the types of things we’re going to have evaluate on a case-by-case basis. So I couldn’t sit here today and even guesstimate.”


Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, introduced legislation Thursday that would increase the gas tax 25 cents over three years – 10 cents the first year, 10 cents the second, 5 cents the third – rather than 23 cents immediately, as called for by the earlier Senate plan and the Christie/Assembly bill. Sweeney said Thursday afternoon he was still waiting for a response from Christie to his latest proposals. He said he expected a response this week but noted the calendar means action isn’t likely until the last week of July at the earliest.

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