- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s acting transportation commissioner says replenishing the state’s soon-to-be-depleted transportation trust fund is only half the battle.

While a dedicated source of revenue for the trust fund is crucial and still uncertain, Richard Hammer told a transportation planning group on Monday it will come with a responsibility to spend those dollars wisely. He said his background as a project manager in more than 30 years at the Department of Transportation will help ensure that.

“Coming from a world in which cost, schedule and scope are paramount, I believe I can build the trust necessary to convince the public that whatever sacrifice they need to make will be well worth it,” he told the North Jersey Transportation Authority’s board meeting.

He said every highway, bridge or transit project must be scrutinized for its value.

“This is what the public will be depending on us to do, and they will be holding us accountable,” he said.



The transportation trust fund is expected to run dry in June. Among the proposals to replenish the fund is to raise the state’s gas tax, which is one of the nation’s lowest. But that proposal has generated strong opposition from some legislators, and Hammer said no formal proposal has been put forth.

Hammer was named by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in late October to replace outgoing commissioner Jamie Fox. In a more than 30-year career at the Department of Transportation he was a project manager, director of project management and, recently, assistant commissioner of the department’s capital program management group.

Hammer said short-range thinking, exemplified by the propping up of the trust fund with more and more borrowing, has put the state’s infrastructure in jeopardy.

“The failure to strategically invest in preventive maintenance has ultimately led to costly reconstruction, rehabilitation and replacement projects,” he said.

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