It was all about raising the funds for Christie to lard onto favored contractors, and paper over the reality of New Jersey's bankrupt transportation fund. The reality is that NJ's gas tax is far below what it needs to be (and far below its neighbors on all sides).
How to fund these repairs, however, is a grave problem. The governor loves to talk of the New Jersey Miracle, but his state is a transportation pauper. Its transportation trust fund teeters on insolvency, with most of its money going to pay off old bonds. Desperate to find funds, the governor embraced the chop shop option. First he killed a planned $8.7 billion commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River. Many argued this tunnel would ensure the future health of the region's economy. Whatever: Today trumps tomorrow in politics. Federal officials tried to renegotiate the cost of that tunnel, and the governor and his aides kept shaking their heads. "They could never take 'yes' for an answer," a transportation planner familiar with these negotiations said. "They needed the money to fix their roads." Once Mr. Christie cashed in that Hudson tunnel, he demanded the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey allow him to use the unspent money for his bridges and roads. There was a rub, however. As The Record pointed out in a fine article a few weeks back, the Port Authority is not a transportation piggy bank. Its funds can only be used on roads leading to the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel. The Pulaski bridge, alas, leads to the Holland Tunnel, which does not qualify, as it was built before the creation of the Port Authority. The governor stomped and demanded. Soon the Port Authority's lawyers rebranded the Pulaski Skyway an "access road" to the Lincoln Tunnel. Legal fiction is a creative field. The governor had other options. He could have sought to raise New Jersey's gas tax, which is the second lowest in the nation. Every penny added to that tax is good for about $50 million. Raise the tax by a dime and you can repair a lot of bridges and roads.