New Jersey Transit Wednesday approved a $1.79 billion operating budget and a $1.35 billion capital plan for fiscal 2011, which began July 1.

The spending plans are similar in size to the agency’s fiscal 2010 operating and capital budgets. Last year, NJ Transit spent $1.79 billion for operating needs and another $1.39 billion on infrastructure improvements.

Officials filled a $300 million fiscal 2011 deficit by hiking transit fares by 22% system-wide on May 1 and reducing expenses.

“The program reflects our commitment to operating efficiently with the lowest-growth budget in NJ Transit’s history,” NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein said before the board. “It positions the agency as a stronger, more financially stable corporation.”

Sources of funding for the $1.35 billion capital budget include $600 million of New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority borrowing, and $700 million of federal funds.

The capital plan includes $275 million of debt-service costs — slightly less than the $281 million of principal and interest payments the agency made in fiscal 2010 — and $463 million of fixed capital maintenance expenses NJ Transit must execute to receive certain federal and TTFA funds.

Another $296 million supports system expansion developments, including $158.2 million for the new $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core Tunnel, or ARC Tunnel, which will provide a new rail connection from New Jersey to midtown Manhattan.

Officials broke ground on the new passenger-rail tunnel in June 2009 and expect to complete the project in 2017.

Another expansion project involves replacing the Portal Bridge, which spans the Hackensack River. The $1.8 billion initiative will receive $65.5 million in fiscal 2011. NJTransit and Amtrak both use the 100-year old, two-track railroad bridge.

The development will create five railroad tracks over two new bridges to replace the existing structure and will be high enough to avoid maritime traffic. The current Portal Bridge must open up to allow boats to pass.

In addition, the agency will spend $21.7 million to help finance extension of its light-rail line that runs through Hudson and Bergen counties.

The capital budget will also help finance 1,400 new buses, 100 multi-level rail cars that are more reliable than the system’s current rail cars and that add new capacity, and 10 new dual-mode locomotives. Other capital projects include track and bridge improvements, enhancements to rail stations, and technology and signal upgrades.

In looking at the $1.79 billion operating budget, officials anticipate collecting $823.6 million of passenger revenue, $65.6 million more than in fiscal 2010 as a result of the May 1 fare increase.

The budget also includes $102 million of commercial revenue, $17.4 million more than in fiscal 2010.

Those funds will come from the agency’s expanded advertising program and by leasing the agency’s parking assets through public-private partnerships to generate new revenue.

Scott Balice Strategies is working with NJ Transit as a financial adviser on potential P3 projects. The agency plans to release a P3 procurement package in the fall.

Another $276.2 million will come from state aid. The fiscal 2010 budget included $296.2 million of aid. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year cut that support by $34.7 million to help the state fill a mid-year deficit due to underperforming revenues.

The budget also includes $587.3 million of state and federal reimbursement funds, a decrease of $54.3 million over the prior year’s budget due to fewer funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

NJ Transit is the nation’s third-­largest mass-transit system, providing 223 million passenger trips ­annually. The ­agency oversees more than 200 bus routes and 11 rail lines, and connects New Jersey to New York and ­Philadelphia.

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