The New Jersey Transit Board of Directors has approved a $2.6 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2021 and a five-year capital plan.
They support continued investment in personnel, infrastructure and equipment; help advance the agency’s 10-year strategic plan (NJT2030); and include additional spending due to COVID-19. The capital plan consists of two sets of projects. The first set includes $11.21 billion in projects already funded by existing or expected resources; of that, $1.4 billion in funding is appropriated in FY21. The second set identifies another $5.78 billion worth of proposed projects that are not yet funded.
According to NJ Transit, approximately 14% of the revenue in the operating budget comes from riders; the rest is from a combination of commercial revenue and state and federal resources, including $1.4 billion in CARES Act funds. The three-year cumulative state operating subsidy is 73% higher, or $836 million more, than the three-year period of fiscal years 2016-18.
About $1.53 billion of the operating budget will go toward costs associated with labor and fringe benefits. Other significant expenses include contracted services, materials, fuel, power and utilities. Also included in the budget are costs related to COVID-related response measures, such as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, materials and supplies, and employee testing.
Additionally, the budget allows for hiring additional safety and field investigative staff and NJ Transit Police Department members; adding more Locomotive Engineer Training Program classes; enhancing customer engagement and feedback capabilities; upgrading technology; and including more staff development and training programs.
The FY 2021-25 capital plan will continue state-of-good-repair investments in transit stations and infrastructure, investments in the Northeast Corridor, fare modernization, safety initiatives, bus and railcar purchases, Positive Train Control installation, and support for local mobility programs, according to the transit agency.
NJ Transit said that capital plan construction activity is continuing on two major projects that started this calendar year: the $195 million Long Slip Fill and Rail Enhancement Project and the $595 million Raritan River Bridge Replacement project. Other major active construction projects remain on schedule. They include the $76 million Elizabeth Station project, the $34 million Hoboken Depot Substation and the $39 million Henderson Street Substation. The $35 million Lyndhurst Station and the $47 million Perth Amboy Station rehabilitation projects are scheduled for award during this current fiscal year.
NJ Transit said this year’s procurement and construction activity continues to support rolling stock renewals, such as 113 Multilevel III regional/commuter railcars. Other infrastructure improvements include improved lighting, bathroom upgrades and additional ADA elevators at Newark Penn Station.
Said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti of the announcements: The budgets allow NJ Transit “to continue to provide necessary service to our customers and make improvements to an aging system. We are grateful for the Federal CARES Act relief that is integral to continuing NJ Transit’s operations during this challenging time.”
Added President and CEO Kevin Corbett: The spending plans will “allow us to continue building on the significant progress we’ve made at NJ Transit over the past two and a half years. We’re especially pleased to be able to keep fares stable this year, as we know how critically important mass transit is for essential workers and our transit-dependent customers, many of whom are facing financial uncertainty as a result of the pandemic.”
In a recent Rail Group On Air Podcast, Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono spoke with Kevin Corbett about NJT’s approach to ridership recovery and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency’s long-term capital plans and strategy.