Will New Jersey Raise Gas Tax to Fix Crumbling Roads and Bridges?
- Sep 29, 2014 | Gail Cole
The State of New Jersey has not increased its gas tax since 1988, when it was set at 14.5 cents per gallon. The rate for diesel fuel is slightly higher, at 17.5 cents per gallon. Only Alaska has a lower gas tax, at 8 cents per gallon.
Travelers through New Jersey undoubtedly notice the low taxes (which transfer into lower gas prices), as well as the mandatory full service fuel stations (which also exist in Oregon). It seems New Jersey voters “are intensely fond of both.”
That would be just fine, if New Jersey had roads as smooth as I-84 through Connecticut in the late ‘80s. Like glass, it was, only less slippery. Now, apparently, New Jersey and Connecticut are vying for the worst roads in the nation.
This is a dubious distinction, at best. To combat it, some in The Garden State would like to raise New Jersey’s gas tax. Most revenue collected from the current tax goes to paying down the billion-dollar debt incurred from extensive borrowing from the Transportation Trust Fund. There is simply not enough money left over to build new roads and fix all the roads and bridges in need of repair. In the words of Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson, it is best to “learn to live with pot-holes. The economics are untenable.”
Thirty-six percent of bridges in New Jersey are structurally obsolete. The roads are so bad they actually damage vehicles and cause “$600 of repairs annually for the typical New Jersey driver.” Adding 15 cents to the gas tax would bring in an additional $750 annually. A 2013 study estimated $21 billion would be needed to get New Jersey’s infrastructure into “passable shape.”
Governor Chris Christie (R) has been staunchly opposed to increasing the gas tax. Recently, however, he conceded that when it comes to funding transportation projects, “everything is on the table for discussion.”
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