Year after year, according to a brand new report, New Jersey has deferred investment in the major sectors of infrastructure. The report from Facing Our Future, led by a volunteer group of former government executives and public servants, offered recommendations on how to face the state's deficiencies now and with a sense of urgency. Perhaps the boldest suggestions were found within the transportation sector; the recommended investments would total more than $21 billion over the next five years.

The report stated that the first priority for New Jersey's transportation network should be "to preserve and repair its already in-place system of highways, transit and rail." Deferring maintenance, the report suggests, is not viable because it results in larger costs down the road that could be unaffordable.

Driscoll Bridge (top) along the Garden State Parkway, spanning the Raritan River (Flickr user dsearls)

"We really haven't done a full-blown needs plan since 2003," said the group's Sam Crane, adding that New Jersey must commit to a comprehensive and updated look at transportation needs.

The report also called for a replenishment of the Transportation Trust Fund, which has been used to help balance the state's budget in the recent past. That would no longer happen, if the report had its way, and the fund would get some help from a higher gasoline tax on motorists. New Jersey's gas tax, the third-lowest in the country, has not risen in 21 years.

"We all get in our cars in the morning and drive out of the driveway, and we start to use the system without really a thought of about how it's maintained, how it's funded," Crane said.

Beyond the gas tax, the report suggested New Jersey officials explore and adopt more elastic sources of revenue. In Virginia, the motor fuels tax was replaced by a sales tax. Oregon implemented fees for vehicle miles traveled.

Facing Our Future's report also focused on water systems and electric power, with proposed investments totaling more than $70 billion.