A majority of New Jersey residents said they’re concerned about keeping the fund that pays for major road, bridge and transit projects solvent, but they split when it comes to paying more at the pump to finance the state Transportation Trust Fund, in result of a Monmouth University poll released Wenesday. The poll, conducted for NJ Future and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, showed that a slight majority — 49 percent — said they would support increasing the state gas tax, if that money was dedicated to transportation. It found that 48 percent of the 803 adults polled by phone opposed increasing the gas tax.
“Its a little bit better than we expected,” said Zoe Baldwin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign New Jersey Coordinator. “The more people know about it, the more concerned they are and the more they’re in favor of raising the gas tax as long as it’s constitutionally dedicated.”
Putting the trust back in the trust fund has been an issue since advocates such as Tri-State fought to keep revenues from the gas tax from being diverted to the general fund. Baldwin and other advocates said the only way to do that is to constitutionally dedicate the gas tax money.
But how to fund the trust fund remains a stumbling block, both in Trenton, where Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the idea of increase the gas tax or tolling interstate highways to raise revenue and in the minds of the recession battered public.
The poll found a split decision among those who responded on raising transportation user fees, such as tolls, vehicle registration fees, or the gas tax, even if the money went to road, bridge, and transit projects.
Some advocates compared the situation to what happened to decline that the New York City Subway system went into during the 1970’s due to a lack funding to make needed improvements.
“New Jersey residents are waking up to the fact that the state has virtually no funding in place for transportation projects starting next year,” said Tom Wright, executive director of Regional Plan Association, in a prepared statement. “The state’s transportation systems are looking into the abyss of disrepair, just as the New York City transit system did when shortsighted politicians failed to maintain mass transit in the 1970s. New Jersey cannot go down this road.”
Opinions expressed in the poll were given after the situation that the trust fund will run out of money in 2011 to do anything except pay off past debt was explained to many of those taking the poll. The poll found that 45 percent of those polled hadn’t heard about the fund running out of cash unless a new revenue source was found. APP