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Report highlights need to invest in infrastructure

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New Jersey needs a new approach to infrastructure that reflects 21st century needs and explores realistic ways to fund necessary infrastructure investment that will fuel economic success, a report released Sunday concluded.

The report by Facing our Future, an independent, nonpartisan group led by 20 former government officials and public servants, emphasized the choices and priorities New Jersey faces in regards to its infrastructure.

“The report is grounded in the critical assumption that you can’t have credible economic development and job growth without the necessary infrastructure,” said Raphael J. Caprio, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, and a member of Facing our Future’s leadership group. “We are now between a rock and a hard place. We can’t defer it any longer or it will be an unsolvable problem.”

Caprio said it would take $70 billion to address the state’s water, transportation and power needs.

“We need to prioritize and multitask, taking a bite out of all three areas,” he said. “There are so many possible solutions that have to be looked at, and we need to begin the conversation.”

Hurricane Sandy exposed many of the problems and highlighted the increased need for investment. For decades, repairs have been made only when urgent and in many cases, maintenance has been deferred altogether, the report reads. Bridges and roads are crumbling, and power utilities desperately need to be upgraded, the report notes. More than 20 percent of our water supply is lost because the distribution pipes are not maintained; it would be more cost-effective to fix those pipes than to waste all that water, Caprio said.

It is likely that both consumers and businesses will have to contribute toward the infrastructure financing, but that’s the cost of living and working in a high-tech society.

“You can’t do business without power,” he said. “The marginal cost of contributing toward smart grids more than offsets being out of power for several days or weeks. We need a high-tech environment for the future and computers need reliable power. We can’t afford not to do it.”

The report can be found at www.facingourfuture.org.

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