DOT, NJ Transit budget for repairs

Published in the Asbury Park Press 3/04/03
Mantoloking bridge to be rebuilt; MOM planning to continue

TRENTON -- The state Department of Transportation and NJ Transit yesterday announced their $2.58 billion back-to-basics capital investment budget, which is long on road and bridge repairs but short on highway and rail expansion.

"It may not be as glamorous as a brand new highway or a brand new rail line, but we're focused (on repairs) because these are things that have to be done," state Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere said at a Statehouse news conference. "This basic infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and . . . how we live our lives."

In the Ocean-Monmouth area, the state plans to spend about $28.7 million on capital projects, including $10 million to rebuild the Mantoloking Bridge between Brick and Mantoloking and $4.79 million to improve the intersection where Routes 9 and 524 meet with Jackson Mills Road in Freehold Township.

The state has earmarked $3 million to help cover the Monmouth County's pending purchase of the Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall. The money, county officials said, is part of the four-year, $12 million promise made by the state to Wall several years ago.

While the capital improvement budget covers repairs to 76 bridges, reconstruction of interstate highways and rehabilitation of rail yards and tracks, both Lettiere and NJ Transit Executive Director George D. Warrington said $2 billion worth of infrastructure improvements had to be deferred for lack of funding.

"When you have to make those choices, something has to be cut," including an annual road resurfacing program, which could cost as much $95 million a year, that the DOT had hoped to implement beginning this year, Lettiere said.

NJ Transit's capital budget, which is $1.2 billion of the $2.58 billion total, includes $222 million to replace 13 miles of track and 53,000 railroad ties, rehabilitate drawbridges and obtain safety equipment for trains. It includes $172 million to acquire 100 bi-level passenger cars, other rail cars and 33 diesel locomotives to provide an additional 30,000 seats on trains.

Warrington said the capital budget has forced his office to focus on pending issues, including planning work for a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River that trains could use to reach Penn Station in Manhattan.

"It's the railroad equivalent of rolling a marble through a garden hose," he said. "That soon will become a golf ball and eventually a baseball."

NJ Transit also will continue with environmental and engineering plans needed for federal funding of a proposed light rail line to serve Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties. But Warrington warned that nothing can be implemented until the trans-Hudson problem is resolved.

"It can't work effectively until we have new capacity to Newark and New York," he told reporters following the news conference. "You have to have your capacity before you can fill it."

As part of Gov. McGreevey's anti-sprawl initiative, the DOT capped highway expansion at 4 percent of the overall capital budget. The DOT plans to re-examine its programs to identify those in suburban and rural areas that may encourage sprawl.

"We have to get our roadways to handle more volume without necessarily adding more lanes," Lettiere said.

Other planned capital improvements for Ocean and Monmouth counties include: $1 million to replace the 29-year-old Lovelandtown Bridge on Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant. $1.18 million to construct School Road East in Marlboro. $1.89 million for improving the intersection of Route 71 and Wall Street in West Long Branch. $1.19 million to improve drainage along Route 71 in Wall from 18th Avenue to south of Polly Pod Brook.

Rick Hepp: (732) 643-4212 or [email protected]

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