Garden State engineering firms hope the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s proposed $1.6 billion funding for infrastructure projects will help them refill their pipelines in the years to come.
Public-sector work has diminished in recent years as government funding has dried up, said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey. The Port Authority’s infrastructure plan, part of a draft budget approved Thursday, could be a step toward ensuring that New Jersey maintains a robust environment for the engineering and design industry.
“Engineers’ jobs are portable, so to speak,” Fiordaliso said. “And if we’re not investing in critical infrastructure to keep those engineers working here, they’re going to go elsewhere to other parts of the country, where those projects are under way and where their services are needed.”
The Port Authority’s preliminary $7 billion budget includes items such as $164 million to replace the Pulaski Skyway, $31 million to improve the Lincoln Tunnel helix and bus ramps, and $26 million to rehabilitate the upper level of the George Washington Bridge. Capital spending totals nearly $3.7 billion, although $2 billion of that would go toward the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.
The agency’s board of commissioners approved the preliminary budget Thursday, but the spending plan is pending an external audit of the agency that was ordered by Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo after the board voted in August to raise bridge and tunnel tolls.
In a statement, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said the budget sought to rein in spending while still making capital investments.
“We’re also looking for ways to get our projects off the drawing board, and to market quicker to capitalize on the jobs and economic activity that our investment dollars generate,” Foye said.
Fiordaliso said his association, which represents about 6,000 professionals in New Jersey, views the funding as a positive thing even though many transportation projects are unaccounted for. Engineers and consultants often have the best view of the state’s aging infrastructure, he said, “and many times we see deteriorations and structures in dire need of repair and rehabilitation.”
“You can’t have those projects in construction in two years or three years unless you’re doing the design and engineering work on them today,” Fiordaliso said. “So you’ve got to keep the front of that pipeline fed.”