TEANECK, NEW JERSEY – With New Jersey facing significant infrastructure challenges that will influence the state’s economic competitiveness and the livelihood of the middle class for decades to come, New Start New Jersey hosted the policy forum, “Building Bridges (Rail, Roads & Tunnels) to a Stronger Middle Class: Infrastructure Investments for New Jersey’s Future.” The keynote address was given by Alan B. Krueger, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.
In addition to Krueger, the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University delivered a presentation on the impact our state’s transportation framework will have on New Jersey’s economic future, detailing how infrastructure investments historically have boosted the state’s fortunes and outlined the consequential projects presently under consideration. The event took place on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck.
“New Start New Jersey believes we can revitalize our economy only with a strong middle class,” said Philip D. Murphy, Chairman and Co-Founder of New Start New Jersey. “We cannot have a strong middle class without reliable, purposeful infrastructure. In terms of creating jobs, accessing markets and improving our quality of life, infrastructure is a game changer for New Jersey.”
“Infrastructure is a critical component of the U.S. economy as a whole and, in particular, New Jersey’s economy,” said Krueger. “Additional investment in infrastructure is among the most effective policy options for increasing employment and output, while having a sustained impact by enhancing economic efficiency and productivity.”
“These days, New Jersey necessarily focuses on maintaining crumbling infrastructure,” said Michael L. Lahr, Research Professor from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “But history reveals that our economy needs larger, forward-looking transportation projects to spur it on.”
To review the insights offered by Krueger and the Voorhees Center, New Start New Jersey convened a panel of experts, which included: James J. Tedesco III, Bergen County Executive; Aisha Glover, Senior Vice President of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation; Courtenay D. Mercer, New Jersey Director of Regional Plan Association; and Philip K. Beachem, President of the New Jersey Alliance for Action.
According to reports, New Jersey suffers from several infrastructure-related maladies: 35.5 percent of the state’s bridges are categorized as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete; residents pay an average of $601 annually in extra repairs due to driving on substandard roads; and citizens endure the second-longest average commute in the nation.
New Start New Jersey’s session occurred as the state weighs a number of far-reaching infrastructure issues, such as the replenishment of the Transportation Trust Fund, the progress of the Gateway Project and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s Northern Branch Corridor Project.
At New Start New Jersey’s launch in November 2014, the results of a poll commissioned by the organization revealed that 94 percent of the respondents identified infrastructure investment as essential to fortifying the state’s middle class and lifting New Jersey’s shared fortunes.