New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure means we can no longer afford to do nothing!
If we are serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the future, critical steps must be taken, beginning with increased, long-term, consistent investment. The improvements to the quality of life that result from reduced travel time, cleaner water, better access to health care and recreation, or safer streets are shared broadly among us all. Investments in infrastructure will grow our local economy, create good-paying jobs, and make New Jersey’s economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.
President Biden recently unveiled The American Jobs Plan. It is “an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.” Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society. Everyone can agree that good infrastructure is key because it impacts nearly every aspect of our lives.
Infrastructure includes pipes that deliver drinking water, airports/railroads/waterways that allow for the transportation of the goods we need, roads that allow us to get where we need to go, power grid that keeps the lights on and our devices charged, bulkheads/seawalls/dams/levees that protect our properties from floods, and the broadband connectivity that brings the internet into our homes, schools and businesses.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), founded in 1852, is the country’s oldest national civil engineering organization. It represents more than 150,000 civil engineers in private practice, government, industry, and academia who are dedicated to advancing the science and the profession of civil engineering, and protecting public health, safety, and welfare.
A quick look at the map reveals that District 2 would benefit immensely from the expansion of rail transport within the State! The citizens of the 2nd District have been shortchanged and remain disconnected from the major cities in and around NJ and the entire Northeast Corridor.
According to the ASCE’s 2021 Report Card, NJ’s infrastructure earned a “C-minus“ – consider the following statistics:
- NJ Drivers incurred an average of $713 per year in cost due to damage caused by driving on NJ roads in need of repair.
- It is estimated that 7.8% of bridges in NJ are deemed structurally deficient.
- To get NJ’s drinking water up to standard will cost approximately $8.6 billion.
- NJ Residents experienced 910 outages between 2008 and 2017.
- About 229 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential.
Additionally, NJ’s schools have an estimated $1.58 billion gap in necessary capital expenditures.
To successfully encourage NJ drivers to switch to all-electric vehicles, many more charging stations are needed!
Below is a list of the critical issues facing NJ based on NJ Spotlight News:
- Combined Sewer Overflows
The problem is probably one of the toughest to solve when it comes to preventing pollution in waterways and fouling beaches at the Jersey Shore. When it rains, especially when it pours, these systems, some more than a hundred years old, are unable to properly handle wastewater, resulting in untreated sewage being spilled into the state’s rivers and bays. Some estimate that the cost of fixing those systems could range up to $9 billion.
- Unhealthy Air Quality
New Jersey has never met the federal health-quality standards for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, which envelops parts of the state during hot summer days. Smog causes respiratory problems among the young, the elderly, and those with heart and lung conditions. The state has taken aggressive steps to deal with the problem, but pollution from neighboring states continues to cause problems.
- Protecting Open Space and Farmland
After years of pushing for a stable source of funding to preserve these lands, conservationists successfully lobbied and voters approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate money to that effort. However, the Christie administration diverted 25 percent of the $80 million dedicated to that purpose, most of which would go to pay salaries, maintenance, and operation of state parks and wildlife management areas overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection. In the past, up to $200 million a year would be used to buy open space, farmland, and develop urban parks.
- Stopping Sprawl
This aligns with preserving open space, but it also means diverting scarce state resources to areas already developed, instead of building on land that needs new roads, sewers, and other infrastructure. The Christie administration revamped the state’s primary land-use plan early in its first term, but the new blueprint, dubbed the Strategic Investment Plan, has yet to be adopted.
- Cleaning up the State’s Waterways
Most of the state’s rivers, bays, and other waterways fail to comply with the federal Clean Water Act’s mandate to be “fishable and swimmable.’’ The problems range from dioxin-contaminated fish in the Newark estuary to contamination of shellfish beds at the Jersey Shore. That said, the state has made big strides in cleaning up discharges from wastewater-treatment plants discharging into waterways.
- Cleaning up the Legacy of Toxic Waste Dumps
At one time, the number of sites contaminated with pollutants ranged above 20,000, but thousands have been cleaned as a result of a new program allowing companies to hire private consultants to design remedies. It is a program applauded by some business interests, but opposed by environmentalists who are worried the cleanups are not as effective as those the state would require.
- Converting the State to a Cleaner-running Fleet of Vehicles
Unlike most other states, New Jersey’s transportation system is the biggest source of greenhouse gases — not power plants. The state’s efforts to develop alternative-fueled-vehicles, however, are spotty at best, according to clean-energy advocates. The proponents, particularly want the state to promote electric vehicles.
- Making the Jersey Shore More Resilient to Extreme Storms, such as Hurricane Sandy:
This was a big focus of the Christie administration, as well as federal authorities. Rebuilding homes damaged by the storm to prevent further storm-related damage is a priority, but not without controversy among homeowners and businesses.
- Can Barnegat Bay be Saved?
Perhaps the toughest problem, given the troubles afflicting this valuable recreational resource. Overdevelopment has caused huge difficulties for the bay, a popular destination for many boaters, fishermen, and others. The state has adopted a number of steps to address problems in the bay, but the jury is still out on how effective they will be.
- Developing Cleaner Sources of Energy
In a state long recognized as having air pollution problems, New Jersey has struggled to find cleaner ways to produce electricity. The state has been highly successful in developing solar systems, but has fallen far short of goals to promote offshore wind farms off the Jersey Shore.