Port Authority Funds Diverted to New Jersey Roads and Bridges
Toll revenue that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey collects from tolls on bridges on Hudson River crossings (which we recently described as the "agency's lifeblood") is supposed to be used for Port Authority facilities unless approved otherwise.
However, "according to dozens of emails, confidential memos and internal reports obtained by The Record," some of these revenues are "being used by the Christie administration to prop up New Jersey’s overburdened and underfunded transportation fund in a move questioned by Port Authority lawyers in late 2010 as being outside the legal scope of the agency’s authority," writes The Record's Polk Award-winning journalist, Shawn Boburg
Laws prohibit the agency from spending money on projects outside its transportation network unless they are specifically approved by lawmakers in both New Jersey and New York. But Christie announced the funding in early 2011 without seeking legislative approval or getting Port Authority lawyers to sign off on the move.
Boburg writes that $1.8 billion of Port Authority revenue was diverted "to New Jersey, even though several high-level Port Authority officials expressed concern that the projects it would fund — repairs to four North Jersey roads including the crumbling Pulaski Skyway — have tenuous connections to the Port’s cross-Hudson network."
This is not the first finding of Port Authority funds being used for New Jersey Roads. Two years ago, The New York Times tied Gov. Christie's cancellation of the Hudson River rail tunnels project in 2010 to shoring up the state's ailing transportation fund (and posted here). The cancellation has reappeared in relation to the investigation of the September road closures.
The Port Authority's toll incrases in 2011 are another controversial topic facing both Christie and N.Y. Gov Andrew Cuomo. Boburg's colleagues at The Record wrote on March 2 about "new allegations that (Christie's) top appointees at the Port Authority proposed a series of inflated toll hikes in 2011 designed to make the governors of both states look good when they opposed them."
In the video of the $1 billion, 80-year-old, 3.5 mile Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation that appears in the article, NJ DOT assistant commissioner Richard Hammer states, "We are spending $750 million annually in bridgework in the state," but doesn't indicate the source of the funding. New Jersey's 14.5-cent gas tax (excise tax of 10.5 cents plus 4 cents in other taxes) hasn't been increased since 1992.
CBS 2′s Scott Rapoport reports that "State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, introduced legislation (March 17) that would raise the tax five cents a gallon a year for the next three years. However, judging by the video in the news report, that bill is not going over well with the state's motorists.