Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stimulus funds use for NJ Turnpike illegal?


The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) claims that using federal Build America Bonds — authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — to pay for the expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway is a violation of federal law.

The Build America Bonds were authorized by the federal stimulus package, and offer government subsidies on interest rate costs.

In a letter sent to Governor Jon Corzine on Friday, the organization argued that such funding can only be used for projects that have received federal environmental approvals, something that neither New Jersey highway project has obtained.

On February 4, TSTC filed suit in state appellate court challenging the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s approvals of the NJ Turnpike Authority’s plans to widen the Garden State Parkway one lane in each direction from exits 30 to 80. The organization contends that there are other stimulus-fund-qualified “shovel-ready” projects that would provide more and better congestion relief while stimulating the economy.

“Funding highway expansion projects to stimulate the economy represents a lose-lose," says TSTC's Executive Director Kate Slevin. "Investing in mass transit and fixing our crumbling roads and bridges will produce more jobs, reduce traffic congestion, and have less impact on our natural resources.”

Slevin say that mass transit construction and maintaining roads and bridges generate 19% and 9% more jobs, respectively, than building new roads.

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