Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced today that Mercer County has served a “notice of claim” against the State of New Jersey and New Jersey Department of Transportation due to the continued shutdown of County projects resulting from Gov. Chris Christie’s Executive Order No. 210.
Gov. Christie entered the Executive Order on June 30, ordering the immediate shutdown of all ongoing work funded by the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority (TTFA), which the State had said would run out of money by the end of the summer. On July 6, NJDOT Acting Commissioner Richard Hammer issued a companion Shutdown Order, requiring that all contractors secure projects and cease active work on projects funded by the TTFA effective July 9.
Mr. Hughes said the Executive and Shutdown Orders resulted in the stoppage of four Mercer County projects:
- Replacement of Bridge No. 543.7 on Carter Road, Lawrence Township
- Replacement of Bridge No. 672.4 on South Broad Street, Hamilton Township
- Removal and construction of security fence at Trenton-Mercer Airport
- Rehabilitation of bridges No. 212.12 and No. 218.1 on River Drive, Hopewell Township
In addition, two County projects are in progress although not yet bid, and/or construction has not yet started, due to the Executive and Shutdown Orders:
- Whitehorse-Mercerville Road (CR 533) signal project, Hamilton Township – construction inspection
- Princeton-Hightstown Road (CR 571) design, West Windsor Township
New Jersey law requires filing a notice of claim as a prerequisite to seeking damages through litigation from a public entity.
“Mercer County has taken this initial step because we feel the State has breached its contractual obligations with the County to provide the allocated funding for these projects,” Mr. Hughes said. “The Governor’s Executive Order has put a tremendous strain on our residents and businesses by leaving unfinished projects in limbo.”
Mr. Hughes noted that having to halt the Carter Road bridge project not only has inconvenienced motorists and adversely affected local businesses, but had the ripple effect of causing the State to postpone reconstruction of two historic bridges on Route 206 in Princeton until next spring because Carter Road is the designated detour route for that work.
The County will take a financial hit on the project as well, having ordered materials such as beams and guide rails before the Shutdown Orders went into effect, Mr. Hughes said. “It costs money to stop a project and it costs money to restart a project,” he said, adding that the County appealed to NJDOT for permission to move forward with the Carter Road bridge project using TTFA funds but was unsuccessful.
The Shutdown Orders are expected to result in “demobilization and reassembly costs,” as well as resulting in “unnecessary and unforeseeable delays” in the completion of the projects, according to the County’s notice of claim, which was sent to Office of the Attorney General, the Department of the Treasury and NJDOT. In addition, if the County were to fund the projects, County taxpayers “would necessarily be damaged as a result of the failure of the State to fulfill its contractual obligation,” the notice of claim states.
“The Governor and the Legislature need to find a reasonable way to restore the Transportation Trust Fund as soon as possible,” Mr. Hughes said. “Projects have been on hold for more than two months now and people are hurting.”