Sandy an Opportunity to Refocus New Jersey’s Transportation Priorities

New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure got hit so hard by Superstorm Sandy that three weeks after the storm, the state is still reeling from the impacts.  The devastation delivers a key message–sustainable transportation investment and policies are needed to weather the next storm.  The damage in New Jersey received national attention:  roads and bridges were swept away, major rail electrical substations were flooded, transit capacity was reduced to one cross Hudson rail tunnel, PATH service remains largely underwater, and the North Jersey Coastline service was suspended for three weeks because of damaged tracks and weakened bridges.

The storm damaged 261 NJTransit rail cars and 63 locomotives.  NJTransit had so few buses to compensate for lost rail service that they borrowed over 400 buses from USDOT, Philadelphia’s SEPTA, and the Delaware Department of Transportation.  While New Jersey will need to look at incorporating climate considerations in future infrastructure design and maintenance plans, much can be done by simply re-prioritizing how the state spends its transportation dollars.

Greater Emphasis on Existing Road and Bridge Infrastructure

Even before the storm, 50% of New Jersey’s roads were identified as deficient and over 200 bridges as structurally deficient. But instead of pursuing a broad fix-it-first strategy, NJDOT is spending more on new road capacity projects according to Tri-State’s analysis of the agency’s 2013 Capital Program.  New Jersey must return to the policies that emphasized fix-it-first and made it a national model for sustainable transportation policy. Vulnerability assessments and resiliency upgrades for extreme weather events must also be incorporated into fix-it-first goals.