New Jersey Department of Transportation commissioner James Simpson feels investing in South Jersey's transportation infrastructure makes good business sense.
Simpson, speaking before a group of business leaders Friday morning at Rowan University for an event held by the Southern New Jersey Development Council, said South Jersey can be an alternative to the too-congested North Jersey.
"(South Jersey offers) boundless opportunities for growth," he said.
A good example of a project that needs that attention, he noted, is the proposed plan to construct a light-rail line connecting Glassboro, where Rowan is based, to Camden's Walter Rand Transportation Center. Two public meetings on the project are scheduled for later this month.
Of course, identifying an opportunity and seizing it are two different things. Simpson said business leaders need to come up with "21st century solutions" to funding issues to help get projects off the ground.
SNJDC president Marlene Asselta said there has been an evident push to develop the region's transportation infrastructure, but said the region still has "a long way to go" to get going.
"South Jersey isn't the only place to grow in New Jersey, but certainly it does offer the most opportunity for growth," Asselta said.
Rowan University president Ali Houshmand said development of the area's transportation infrastructure is not only desirable, but essentially connected to the growth of his university.
Collaboration, he said, between the private and public sectors is a key to fostering development in not just Glassboro, but South Jersey altogether.
"You cannot just build things in isolation," Houshmand said.
Speaking to the necessity of partnerships in transportation development, Simpson referred to the grand reopening he attended Thursday at Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing. As a previously "underutilized" airport near some of the state's major corridors and high-traffic areas, public-private partnership helped to fund its expansion and turn it into a viable option for the region, he said.
"It's going to increase property values," Simpson said. "It's better for business because time is money."