Corporate road sponsorships coming to New Jersey

(Photo: Sean_Marshall / Flickr)(Photo: Sean_Marshall / Flickr)

It had to happen.

Funding for our transportation infrastructure is inadequate, to use a nice word, and states and any other agencies responsible for our bridges and roads are going to have to continue to find and mine almost any source they can think of.

So New Jersey is set to allow corporate sponsorships of roads, or at least at rest stops and maybe in some other inventive ways. The move needs Governor Chris Christie’s signature, and that shouldn’t be a problem. What comes next is the process of deciding how companies get to be sponsors, what they actually sponsor, what form their sponsorship could take and where the money goes when it hits the New Jersey budget.

That process is perhaps the most interesting thing about this move. No doubt a whole lot of agencies are looking into ways to get private money into state coffers. Public-private partnerships are perhaps the way to the biggest bucks.

But with P3s we’re talking long-term. Being able to get smaller sums in a hurry is actually extremely important as agencies continue to look at what they are not going to be able to do rather than plan to do everything that’s needed for their road systems.

Just how much money this could bring is probably guesswork at this stage. And it could backfire. Think of all those ballparks with clunky corporate logos and announcers trying to make a company name sound cool. But at a time where there are a limited number of money pools to go fish in (and the tax pool is off limits) this has to be an attractive possibility for DOTs everywhere.

But I can’t help but think about Lady Bird Johnson. Campaign traveling in the Pacific Northwest with husband/president LBJ when our interstates were still being built, she noticed some “eyesores” beside the bold new roads that cut through some beautiful country. Rusty car cemeteries, billboards, hastily built strip malls and the like. She told LBJ what she thought and, to cut a long story short, LBJ pushed legislation that made beautification part and parcel of the interstate system. I’m just sayin’.