Sweeney makes a pitch for state to fix bridges and roads

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D., Gloucester), campaigning to highlight the urgency of fixing New Jersey's infrastructure, appeared at the decaying Centerton Road Bridge in Mount Laurel on Friday and invoked concerns about cars falling into rivers.

"There's just no more ability to kick the can down the road," Sweeney said, faulting Gov. Christie for not focusing on what he said was a growing problem.

"These needs can't be ignored," Sweeney said with Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D., Burlington) and Burlington County Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio by his side at the bridge the state Department of Transportation has listed as the worst in the county.

With the state Transportation Trust Fund lacking money to pay for repairs, including fixing the nearly 10 percent of New Jersey bridges listed as structurally deficient by the Transportation Department, lawmakers are considering various proposals to raise money, including a fuel-tax increase.

Sweeney said he did not favor one funding source over another and said it was the governor who "needs to give us a plan now. Once he gives us a plan, we'll work with him."

"The solution must be constitutionally mandated so every penny goes toward the bridges and roads," he said.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Bergen) has introduced a bill that proposes a higher gasoline tax to foot the infrastructure bill. Sweeney said there had also been talks about a vehicle mileage tax.

"There's going to be a cost on doing this no matter what," he said.

The Governor's Office did not respond to a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment, but Christie previously vowed to oppose tax increases.

For years, the transportation fund has been paying for its projects through bonds, said Martin Robins, director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. When the time came in the early 2000s to pay off those bonds, the fund had no choice but to use money that would otherwise pay for repairs and maintenance.

"These are all projects that are worthy, but there is no funding for them," he said.

"What we've got here is an unsustainable situation," he said.

The two-lane bridge on Centerton Road is without shoulder lanes, supported by rusty metal, and requires weight restrictions. "That's really bad," Sweeney said. "You can't get much lower."

He said that if the bridge gets any worse, it will have to be shut down, causing many potential businesses to shy away from the area.

"If you can't get from here to there, you lose the business you have. This is really an important need," he said.

Original article