2008 Accomplishments and the Year Ahead
Let me begin by wishing everyone a very happy New Year. I had the honor last month of being confirmed as the 26th commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). I plan to use this forum to keep you informed on issues I think might be of interest to the millions of people who travel our roads. Please allow me to use this first report to look ahead to what we can expect in 2009 and back at NJDOT’s accomplishments in 2008.
2009 promises to be historic. Our state has, over a period of decades, under-invested in our infrastructure. Now many of our vital transportation assets show signs of aging and disrepair. Those assets will be the focus of much attention in 2009. The new President and Congress will soon consider a federal stimulus plan that will likely include investments in infrastructure improvement projects that New Jersey sorely needs. Governor Corzine has strongly advocated for federal infrastructure funding in order to stimulate the economy and provide long-term transportation infrastructure improvements. The Governor in late 2008 provided testimony regarding the importance of infrastructure projects for economic recovery before the House Committee on Transportation and the House Appropriations Committee.
Pending additional federal infrastructure investment, NJDOT is working with NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to implement Governor Corzine’s comprehensive transportation infrastructure plan (pdf 4.7m). The Governor’s plan accelerates spending on transportation projects and calls for $2.8 billion in infrastructure investments by the end of 2009. Under Governor Corzine’s leadership, we will make critical infrastructure improvements and create or support an estimated 26,000 jobs.
Before we focus on the challenges of the new year, I’d like to share some of our accomplishments from 2008. With fewer employees and a smaller operating budget, the Department responded to Governor Corzine’s charge to find more efficient ways to fulfill our core mission. I’m pleased to report that the dedicated, hard-working employees of the NJDOT met that challenge.
For the first time ever, we published a detailed blueprint for capital spending for the next decade through a 10-year capital program and capital investment strategy. The 10-year capital plan includes more than $33 billion in infrastructure investments for our highways, bridges and mass transit system. In Fiscal Year 2008, the Department awarded a record $743 million in construction contracts. We are on pace to break that record in Fiscal Year 2009 by awarding approximately $1 billion.
NJDOT in 2008 continued to focus on ensuring that small and disadvantaged businesses can compete for our contracts. NJDOT awarded those businesses contracts worth $187.4 million for construction-related activities, which represents an increase of $20 million over the previous year. Increasing the opportunities for small businesses to compete benefits everyone, and we will continue to improve upon our efforts.
We also made progress toward relieving roadway congestion in 2008 by providing new tools for efficient travel choices. We launched NJ511, a free service that enables drivers to access the most up-to-date traffic information by dialing 511 on their cell phones or by visiting the web. We also introduced MyNJ511, a personalized service that provides updates about traffic conditions on particular roads by text message or email. These services help relieve congestion by allowing drivers to make informed decisions regarding the use of alternate routes or departure time delays.
The new Statewide Traffic Management Center (STMC) in Woodbridge enabled NJDOT to greatly improve the quality and frequency of the traffic information that we provide to the public. The STMC, which was a joint project with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, is a high-tech marvel. It’s anchored by an 18-by-50-foot video wall that offers live images from 420 surveillance cameras on highways around the state. Just as importantly, it for the first time gives our operations staff a seat in the same room as the operations staffs of the Turnpike Authority and the State Police. Sitting side-by-side, we are able to respond more quickly and more efficiently to accidents, adverse weather and other incidents that could impact the flow of traffic on our highways.
NJDOT in 2008 continued to review planned projects through a value engineering process called Value Solutions, which makes projects simpler, more affordable and easier to build. These efforts generated a savings of $236 million last year. That continued our momentum from 2007, when NJDOT produced the largest value engineering savings in the country at $327.2 million, a savings greater than states with much larger capital programs, such as California and Texas.
We expect additional savings in coming years as a result of the 2008 reintroduction of an in-house crack sealing program designed to extend the life of pavement on our interstates and highways. This proactive initiative will extend pavement life by three to five years and generate savings by enabling us to forego spending on some resurfacing projects. In fact, the crack-sealing program can defer approximately $242 million in future resurfacing costs over a five-year period.
Those are just a handful of the things we accomplished in 2008. As I look forward to the many challenges certain to come in 2009, I’m reminded that it’s often the times of greatest challenge that offer the greatest opportunities. I hope that we will remember 2009 as a year when we made important strides toward preserving our critical transportation infrastructure for future generations.
I invite you to check this site periodically to keep tabs on our progress.