South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) Capital Improvement Program
The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments to the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) Proposed Capital Improvement Program as a part of the public participation process. The improvements included in the Proposed Capital Improvement plan will greatly benefit the entire South Jersey region and spur economic growth at a time when the region needs it the most. However, the Chamber has concerns with any public policy that would place New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage; that is why we believe a toll increase on the Atlantic City Expressway is not the right way to fund most of these critical infrastructure needs at this time.
An important component of the Proposed Capital Improvement Program is the inclusion of the Gloucester Camden Line (GCL). The GCL is an 18-mile passenger rail which will provide quick, reliable and frequent service in the communities along the Glassboro to Camden corridor. It is a project the region desperately needs as South Jersey has been void of sufficient public transportation options for decades passed over by legislators, governors and Congress who prioritized projects in our northern brethren instead.
There have been some improvements to infrastructure and transportation projects in the region, including the Ports of Paulsboro and Repauno and the incredible economic growth stimulated by the development of Rowan Boulevard between Rowan University and the City of Glassboro. These two projects alone are spurring considerable economic growth for South Jersey, including the new Inspira Hospital that opened in 2019. This is further proof that an investment in infrastructure will positively impact the community in more ways than one.
The CCSNJ also was pleased to see upgrades to the Atlantic City Rail Line (ACL) included in the Proposed Capital Improvement Program. The rail line’s impact in South Jersey cannot be understated; it serves communities of South Jersey with critically necessary mass transit that is otherwise nonexistent in this region of the state. It is the only New Jersey Transit operated rail line in the southern portion of New Jersey, and the only rail line in New Jersey that serves Atlantic City. The upgrades to the ACL will make much needed improvements to critical infrastructure, as well as provide essential jobs as the economy reopens following the COVID19 pandemic.
These improvements will ease the commutes of casino industry employees. According to the most current data available from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, there are approximately 544 casino employees that live in Camden County, where four of the ACLs stops are located. If you count the number of casino employees in the surrounding counties of Burlington (118) and Gloucester (322) Counties, just under 1,000 casino employees live near ACL lines and potentially use the ACL to get to and from work.
This Capital Improvement Plan also includes the construction of a new Interchange on the Atlantic City Expressway to provide a direct connection to Atlantic City International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center. The FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center is the nation's premier air transportation system laboratory. These improvements will spur economic development and manage congestion in an area where an innovative, new industry is taking shape.
The projects included in the Proposed Capital Improvement Program, including the GCL, the upgrades to the ACL and the ACY are much needed infrastructure improvements for South Jersey. It will improve the commutes of hardworking casino employees – thousands of which live throughout the South Jersey region, as well as impact and improve upon the ability of tourists to visit the Atlantic City region. It is essential that South Jersey’s economy is given all the tools possible to re-start its economy after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
However, all the aforementioned projects should not be tied to toll increases on the Atlantic City Expressway, which the CCSNJ cannot and does not support. Instead, the CCSNJ respectfully encourages the SJTA, and by extension the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit (NJT), to think creatively about different funding streams that will not put South Jersey residents, and the Atlantic City tourism community, at a competitive disadvantage.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the SJTA Proposed Capital Improvement Program.