Four southern NJ counties — Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Ocean — were allocated $169 million in stimulus money through July 20. Cumberland received the smallest amount — $22.2 million. Most of the money coming into Cumberland, $12.1 million, is for education. The second largest amount, $3.3 million, is for housing and urban development.
Again and again, over many years, every needs survey of Cumberland County has show that our most critical need is transportation. What did we receive in that category? A big zero. Compare that to $72.5 million for transportation in Cape May.
When the news first came out that Cumberland was receiving nothing for transportation, Big Lou got the state to come up with funding for the Route 49/55 intersection. Interestingly, the state was prepared to spend something like $28 million on the project, when a few years ago, its cost was projected at around half that amount. Hard to believe there was that much inflation. Maybe the ballooned amount had something to do with union jobs for Camden County workers.
Anyhow, as we know, the neighborhood outcry has resulted in the state taking another look at this project. The neighbors say the congestion problems at the intersection were pretty well solved by retiming of traffic lights.
The bigger question is, “Is this the only shovel-ready transportation project in a county whose biggest problem is transportation?”
Here’s one take on the issue by an astute observer:
The real issue is the lack of transportation funds. I understand we did not get any money because Cumberland County did not have any shovel ready projects. We used to have three engineers in the Public Works Department.
One of them worked to make sure we were way ahead on engineered road projects. We always had a couple fully designed and waiting for funding. We often got projects because other counties could not use the money by the end of a funding cycle. The money would be made available to any county that was fully designed and ready to go to bids. We picked up millions and millions in road money because of this.
Now, because of the failure to properly staff the Engineering Dept. at Public Works, we miss out on the stimulus money for transportation. We have probably have 25-50 million in road needs.
So much for Lou’s leadership on the transportation issue. He’s bumbling around holding meetings to develop his pie-in-the-sky ten year plan (his big announcement is reportedly imminent) while, due to his poor leadership, our most critical need is going unmet.