Says Analysis of Cost-Saving Opportunities Critical Given Talk of Major Gas Tax Increase
In response to concerns that New Jersey highways are the nation’s most expensive to build, operate and maintain, Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) has drafted legislation that will give policymakers the information they need to lower costs for drivers and taxpayers.
As Doherty expressed in a recent editorial, the new measure addresses the dual concerns of excessive state highway costs highlighted in a recent report by the Reason Foundation and calls by some legislators to raise the state’s gas tax to fund new transportation projects.
“Some may quibble over how much more New Jersey spends on our highways than other states, but nobody disputes that we do spend more than everyone else,” said Doherty. “With New Jersey drivers already shouldering such a heavy tax and toll burden, it’s imperative that we find out why the many millions we spend on our roads get us so little in return.”
According to the Reason Foundation’s 21st Annual Highway Report, New Jersey’s overall highway performance ranked 48th among the states despite our roads being the nation’s most expensive. The next most expensive state, Massachusetts, was found to spend two-thirds less per mile than New Jersey despite similarities in population density, climate and highway system size.
Doherty’s legislation would create the “State Transportation Cost Analysis Task Force” to conduct a methodical analysis of the factors that contribute to New Jersey’s road costs, compare our costs to those of other states, and provide recommendations to complete projects more cost-effectively.
The task force would include transportation system experts, including representatives of New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Additionally, the task force would include: a representative of the State Treasurer; four members of the Legislature, with appointments by the Assembly Speaker, Senate President, and each of the minority leaders; and three members of the public appointed by the Governor, upon the recommendations of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Building and Construction and Trades Council.
“There are many anecdotal claims as to why New Jersey spends far more for our roads than any other state, but nobody has conducted a formal study to definitively show which factors drive our costs and at what weight,” said Doherty. “The task force I have proposed will bring together transportation system and construction experts to give us hard data that we can use to inform our efforts to cut costs and protect taxpayers.”
Doherty noted that this effort to understand our highway spending is critically important given claims by some lawmakers that a 25 cent per gallon increase in the state’s gas tax is necessary to fund future road and transportation infrastructure projects.
“When we’re spending two or three times more per mile than any other state, it’s extremely likely that significant savings can be found by the task force to reduce our road costs,” added Doherty. “Legislators owe it to taxpayers to try to control such outrageous spending before even considering a gas tax increase that would cost the average New Jersey driver an additional $300 per year.”
In recognition of the urgency with which the spending analysis and cost-saving recommendations are needed, the final report would be due within 6 months of the task force’s organization.