New funding under President Joe Biden’s bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill will give New Jersey $1.1 billion over the next five years to tackle its hundreds of failing bridges.
The total amount, which breaks down into $229.4 million annually, matches what the state currently spends annually on bridges, and exceeds the $6.8 billion in federal funds allocated to New Jersey for roads and bridges over the next five years under the legislation .
“Much of the infrastructure in our area is old and subject to heavy daily wear and tear,” said Passaic County Commissioner John W. Bartlett, chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, which works with the State and 13 counties in North and Central Jersey to allocate federal transportation funding. “These funds will help North Jersey and the rest of the state repair and replace more bridges, making travel safer and more efficient overall.”
This comes at a time when, thanks in part to the state’s gasoline tax increase, New Jersey has been steadily reducing its number of deficient bridges, defined as spans in which at least one major component is in poor condition. Some have weight restrictions, forcing heavy trucks and school buses to detour around crossings.
“Our state’s structurally deficient bridges put millions of travelers at risk and threaten to slow New Jersey’s economic growth, especially as we seek to recover from the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our economy,” said US Senator Cory Booker. .
The state had 482 bridges, or 7.1% of its 6,798 bridges, deemed deficient in 2021, according to an analysis of Federal Highway Administration statistics by NJ Advance Media. This ranked New Jersey 21st among the 50 states. In 2020, 502 spans, or 7.4% of the state’s 6,801 bridges, were in poor condition. There were 602 faulty bridges in the state in 2012.
State Department of Transportation Stephen Schapiro called the new funding “essential to addressing 480 New Jersey bridges that need repairs.”
The current list of bridges classified as deficient includes the span carrying Interstate 80 over the Passaic River, which handles 159,732 vehicles per day. It is the state’s busiest bridge in poor condition, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, an industry group.
This I-80 bridge work is currently being designed, Schapiro said. Earlier DOT documents put the cost to replace the structure at $60 million, but the final figure won’t be known until the design is complete, he said.
Another deficient structure is the Route 4 bridge between Hackensack and Teaneck which was built in 1931. Some bridges in New Jersey are even older.
“Some of our bridges go back to when William Howard Taft roamed the White House and the Athletics played home games in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist. “The dilapidated state of these bridges is not a nostalgic novelty: these potential travel hazards pose a risk to public safety and create seemingly endless delays that rob workers and their families of hours.
Another busy span that had been deemed deficient, the NJ Route 495 bridges carrying traffic to and from the Lincoln Tunnel through U.S. Routes 1 and 9 and Paterson Plank Road in North Bergen, has just been rebuilt at a cost of $94 million.
“This type of federal investment pays off by ensuring our infrastructure is safer and more reliable, strengthening our economy and creating well-paying jobs,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “To build a 21st century transportation system that is the envy of the world and keeps our nation economically competitive, we need bigger federal investments like this, not less.
The infrastructure bill also includes incentives for states to direct some of that funding to local bridges. While a state must normally pay 20% of the cost of building a bridge, the cost of repairing or rehabilitating local spans can be covered by federal funds alone.
“It’s the bridges that are often overlooked when making decisions,” Biden said Friday in a speech marking the 60th day since he signed the infrastructure law. “But they’re essential for small towns, rural towns, farmers to get their products to market, small businesses to be able to serve customers.”
Rep. Donald Payne Jr., a member of the House Transportation Committee, said he’s already spoken to Gov. Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka about using some of the bridge funds to repair or replace the Haynes Avenue Bridge on the Northeast Corridor train. lines. He said commercial truck traffic continues to damage the roadway and threaten access to U.S. Routes 1 and 9.
“I am very excited about this unique opportunity to overhaul our nation’s infrastructure,” said Payne, D-10th Dist. “He’s been in bad shape for too long.”
Some of the funding can also be used to strengthen bridges against climate change and to install devices to allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross the spans safely, said Stephanie Pollack, deputy federal highway administrator.
The entire New Jersey congressional delegation backed the infrastructure bill, the only state to have unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans for the legislation. But Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist.’s yes vote drew condemnation from former President Donald Trump and a call for a primary challenger.
New Jersey could get even more money for building and repairing bridges. The state could compete for a share of $12.5 billion earmarked for economically important bridges. These grants are waiting for the criteria to be drafted by the US Department of Transportation.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].
Start your day with the latest news from Trenton, DC and your city. Get the NJ Politics newsletter now.