Who should pay for local streets? Who does? Survey of New Jersey municipalities

Carl E. Peters, Jonathan R. Peters, Cameron Gordon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Many trips, if not most, begin and end on local roads. Thus, there is a system aspect to such roads in the sense that local streets can have spillover benefits and costs for larger trips that use the total road network. Yet curbs and sidewalks and local streets are typically almost entirely provided locally in the United States. There are historical and institutional reasons for this fact and great variation of practice across jurisdictions. But two key planning and policy questions arise. Who pays for sidewalks and local streets? And who should pay? To find some empirical answers to those questions, this paper reports on a 2015 New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers survey, developed by one of the authors, to collect data on the prevalence of curb and sidewalk installations on municipal streets. The survey explored the management and operational practices that municipal governments use to maintain their local transportation infrastructure. The results indicate that local streets in New Jersey are heavily funded and managed by localities with little focus on any broader network effects that might accrue outside those localities. Analysis of the data suggests a need of more than $1.2 billion annually in New Jersey, against a projected state and federal funding of roughly $100 million annually, a gap in funding that suggests the need to establish a long-term funding mechanism for local streets, curbs, and sidewalks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)24-32
    Number of pages9
    JournalTransportation Research Record
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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