Our Transportation Infrastructure is Crumbling

A Low (Safety) Grade For a New Jersey Roadway

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Mar 31, 2012    •    690 Views

I have to admit that the Pulaski Skyway terrifies me. Driving across it, I always remember the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed during rush hour in 2007.

The Pulaski Skyway is an 80-year-old rickety looking structure. A sister to the Minneapolis bridge, the skyway is among the network of roads leading to lower Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel. With no trucks because of its narrow lanes and no tolls, it is the fastest and cheapest way for me to get into the city.

The congressional battle about transportation funding is what started me thinking about the Pulaski Skyway. Unable to agree on long term policy, Congress just approved a 90-day stopgap measure that temporarily funds ongoing transportation projects.  If Congress is unable to act and New Jersey has big budget problems, how to fund a $1 billion+ Pulaski Skyway project?

That took me to Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser. He says that during our (national) youth, we built the Erie Canal (1825), the first Transcontinental Railroad (1869), the Panama Canal (1914) and (as a young adult) the first interstate highway system (1956). But now we are middle aged. We have to forget about the romance of high speed rail. No longer can we dive into massive politically attractive projects with federal funding. Instead, we need “smart, incremental changes” with users paying the bills, congestion pricing, more private participation and more buses.

So yes, I would accept congestion pricing, a toll, and a higher NJ gas tax for a new Pulaski Skyway. (But the bus? Probably not.)

The grade that the Pulaski Skyway received? With 9 the best and 0, a shutdown, both the Pulaski Skyway and the (collapsed) Minneapolis bridge got a 4 for structure from federal inspectors.

Our bottom line: This about a lot more than the Pulaski Skyway. It is about a wise fiscal approach to an aging transportation infrastructure.

Please note that this entry was edited after it was first posted.

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