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By RMcgrath | March 17th, 2014 - 6:31pm
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TRENTON – Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, on Monday offered a plan to support the rebuilding of the state’s transportation infrastructure with a three-year phase-in of an increased gas tax with a “lockbox” provision guaranteeing the funds would be used solely to rebuild and repair the state’s highways, bridges and roads. The five-cent a gallon increase each year would generate approximately $250 million in additional funds annually for the much-needed work to roadways that have been neglected for years and worn down by another harsh winter.

An estimated 40 percent of the new revenue would come from out-of-state drivers using the state’s roads. Senator Lesniak said.

“The state’s transportation infrastructure is collapsing,” said Senator Lesniak. “The roads have been neglected for years and the harsh winter left a landscape of potholes that are damaging and dangerous. This has a severe impact on our quality of life and the state’s economy. This plan will provide the resources needed to repair, rebuild and maintain the highways, bridges and roadways that are so important in New Jersey.”

 Senator Lesniak also proposed a companion plan to consolidate New Jersey’s different transportation agencies, introducing two bills to generate the funding and to combine the state Transportation Department, the Turnpike Authority, the Garden State Parkway and the South Jersey Transportation Authority. The second bill would create a commission to determine the best way to consolidate the agencies.

  “We have to identify a means to repair the damage that has already been done and to better support a transportation system that serves the needs of motorists and the economy in the years ahead,” said Senator Lesniak. “The longer the problem is neglected, the worse it will get.”

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 66 percent of New Jersey’s roads were in poor or mediocre condition last year, 10 percent of bridges were structurally deficient and 26 percent of bridges were considered functionally obsolete. And the American Society of Civil Engineers says that New Jersey motorists last year spent nearly $3.5 million in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — or $601 per motorist — as a result of driving on damaged roads. And that was after a relatively mild winter.

 This “state of disrepair” and the “pothole tax” on motor vehicles have certainly gotten worse after this year’s winter, Senator Lesniak noted.

 Senator Lesniak said the increased gas tax would have an average cost of less than $100 annually per motorist, less than the expense of most car repairs for the damage caused by potholes and damaged roads.

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