More than $5 billion of the state’s record budget surplus has been put into the debt prevention and control fund established a year ago, through which the state repays debts or builds without additional borrowing.
Of that, $1.9 billion has been earmarked to build schools, $230 million to the Department of Transportation and $814 million to NJ Transit, which it will use to accelerate projects that have been years on the drawing board.
Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Schketty said no one could foresee what this budget season could deliver when the five-year capital plan was developed.
“So, New Jersey Transit has a very complete board, but they are all very important projects,” Gutierrez-Schketty said. “It’s great to receive so much additional funding to improve our system.”
The added spending includes:
250 million dollars for redevelopment Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden
$191 million to improve platforms, roof replacements, lighting upgrades, and other interior and exterior improvements in Newark Penn Station
$176 million for infrastructure and access improvements in Hoboken Ferry Terminal Building and Hoboken Bus Terminal
$49 million to expand and replace existing platforms, rehabilitate and replace elevators and escalators, install new lighting and windows, upgrade HVAC systems, and other interior and exterior improvements in new bronze Station
$48 million for improvements in Bloomfield Station
$33 million for improvements to the Brickchurch station in East Orange
$27 million for platform replacement, stair access repairs, and other interior and exterior improvements at Roselle Park Station
It also includes $40 million to build a road maintenance facility in Clifton.
NJ Transit’s five-year capital plan adopted in 2020 has been described as an “unrestricted vision,” meaning that it included both already funded and unfunded projects, to give people an idea of options and opportunities.
NJ Transit board members said it’s important for the agency to have it, so there is a plan for windfall.
“They have created a pathway that will provide the opportunity to put dollars in place once funds are available for important projects,” Vice President Cedric Fulton said.
“It was an excellent and clever move by New Jersey Transit to acquire an unrestricted capital program. It was just, I would say, just genius,” said Board Members James Adams.
Drivers pay more than riders
NJ Transit has also approved its $2.755 billion budget for fiscal year 2023, with funding from the New Jersey Turnpike exceeding revenue from fares — meaning that highway drivers will shrink more than transit passengers over the next 12 months.
Only 26% of revenue will come from pricing this year. The agency said ridership continues to slowly recover from the pandemic-era slump, with weekday train ridership at 55% of pre-pandemic levels; Weekend ridership rate is 80% to 90%, light rail 75%, bus passengers about 70%.
There are no price increases in the new budget.
Projected 2024 and 25 budgets for NJ Transit remain balanced due to federal COVID recovery funds. But in fiscal year 2026, a massive deficit of $843 million looms, equal to 28% of projected spending.
Michael Simmons is the Chief of Statehouse Office at New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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