Last Chance to Speak Publicly About the PANYNJ’s Cross-Harbor Freight Alternatives

Tomorrow is the last of seven public hearings hosted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to discuss the Cross Harbor Freight Program NEPA Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. While this is your last chance to provide verbal feedback on 10 alternatives to move freight across the New York Harbor, you can still submit comments on the DEIS through March 20 by following the above link. The details for the meeting are:

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (rescheduled from January 29)
    Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 23, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

Alternatives to the current systemwhich moves more than 90 percent of the region’s freight by truck, contributing to myriad local and regional issuesare being studied in the DEIS. Five of the “rail tunnel alternatives” being studied would create a direct rail connection across the harbor, allowing freight to move directly from New Jersey to Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk Counties by rail instead of trucks.

The public is invited to weigh in on all aspects of the draft study, including the alternatives the Port Authority will be studying further. Don’t miss this last opportunity to make your voice heard in support of the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel alternatives, which would be a quadruple win to reduce the economic, environmental, transportation and societal costs of our truck-dependent freight system.

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Connecticut Uniquely Positioned for Congestion Pricing, but Legislators Must Seize the Opportunity

A study on electronic, variable-rate road pricing for Connecticut is underway, but will the state's elected leaders be receptive to congestion management? | Source

Connecticut has a unique opportunity to pursue variable-rate road pricing, but will the state’s elected leaders be receptive to this congestion management strategy? | Source

If last week’s hearing on tolls at Connecticut’s borders did anything, it strengthened the position that implementing tolls for the sole purpose of generating revenue is a bad idea. And if anything else grew out of the hysteria, it might be additional support for congestion pricing.

As the Connecticut Post pointed out this morning, Connecticut is one of only 15 jurisdictions in the nation that has been granted an exemption by the Federal Highway Administration from the general prohibition of tolls on Federal-aid roads. Connecticut’s exception falls under the Variable Pricing Pilot Program, which is “intended to demonstrate whether and to what extent roadway congestion may be reduced through application of congestion pricing strategies.”

» Continue reading…

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Distractions Driving Connecticut’s Toll Conversation

Tolls at the borders would raise revenue, but they would do little to address congestion on Connecticut's most congested corridors. | Source

Tolls at the borders would raise revenue, but they would do little for Connecticut’s most congested corridors. | Source

Modern, all-electronic tolling systems don't require old-fashioned toll booths. | Source

Modern, all-electronic tolling systems don’t require toll booths. | Source

There’s been a lot of talk about about bringing highway tolls back to Connecticut these last few days. The state outlawed tolls after seven people were killed in a fiery crash at a toll both on Interstate 95 in 1983. That tragedy has left Connecticut residents skeptical of tolls, and justifiably so. But  in recent days, a lot of the discourse surrounding tolls has been misinformed, which has led to some confusion. And that’s not good for lawmakers who are trying to deal with serious congestion problems on some of the worst roads in the nation, not to mention an underfunded 30-year transportation plan.

Tolls at the borders

A bill introduced by State Rep. Tony Guerrera, which would bring tolls to interstates at Connecticut’s borders, was the main topic of conversation at a Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday. Guerrera, the committee’s co-chair, “says the legislation is needed to pay for highway projects because the state’s gas tax isn’t raising enough money.”

The argument for placing tolls at the border is that out-of-state residents would shoulder some of the load — as much as 75 percent, Guerrera argued. Connecticut residents pay tolls when they drive to New York and Massachusetts, so let the folks clogging up Interstates 84 and 95 between the Boston and New York metro areas pay their fair share, right? It’s good political calculus — especially since Guerrera represents Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, which are smack dab in the middle of the state (and would be minimally impacted by tolls at the state’s edges).

The argument against border tolls hinges on the fact that they disproportionately impact residents (and the economies) of border towns like Danbury and Enfield.

Both arguments are perfectly sound. The problem is, it’s wrong argument to be having.

Rep. Guerrera is right: the state’s gas tax isn’t bringing in enough revenue to maintain the state’s transportation system. But reinstating tolls in order to raise revenue misses the point of tolling. The goal of bringing back highway tolls must be congestion management.

When you look at tolling from a congestion management perspective rather than a revenue perspective, it completely changes the map. Instead of locating tolls in a way that aims to minimize its impact on intrastate travel, they should be placed A) where there’s a great deal of congestion, and B) like the proposed Move New York plan, where there are alternatives to driving available.

» Continue reading…

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“Not a Crisis,” You Say?

Photo: Mel Evans/AP

Source: Mel Evans/AP

Anyone trying to make sense of all of the bad news for New Jersey transportation this weekthe lack of transportation talk in Governor Christie’s FY2016 budget address, the 8.4 percent cut to the transportation budget, more debt to fund transportation, the threat of the first NJ Transit fare hike in yearsnow has their answer.

Last night, Governor Christie said of the soon-to-be-insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, “I’m hopeful that the Senate president and the [state Assembly] Speaker and I will be able to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, but, you know, again, it’s not a crisis at the moment, because we’re funded pretty well now.”

Let’s be honest here. This is a legitimate crisis; New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is set to run completely dry on July 1, 2015, which has disastrous implications for the state, given that:

  • one in three New Jersey bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete
  • the poor condition of New Jersey roads costs drivers nearly $2,000 a year
  • New Jersey’s rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities is more than double the national average
  • expansion of mass transit is at a standstill due to lack of funding

And yet, Governor Christie’s now proposing to cut the transportation budget by 8.4 percentabout $119 million less funding than the current fiscal year. Given the state’s needs, if anything, the budget ought to be increased.

» Continue reading…

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Don’t Miss the Chance to Learn More about the PANYNJ’s Cross-Harbor Freight Alternatives

The one upside to the severe weather of the past few weeks is that there are still three more opportunities to voice your thoughts about the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Cross Harbor Freight Program. There are two more public hearings today and one more next week to solicit public feedback on ten alternatives to move freight across the New York Harbor.

Alternatives to the current systemwhich moves more than 90 percent of the region’s freight by truck, contributing to myriad local and regional issuesare being studied in the Cross Harbor Freight Program NEPA Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Five of the “rail tunnel alternatives” being studied would create a direct rail connection across the harbor, allowing freight to move directly from New Jersey to Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties by rail instead of trucks.

The public is invited to weigh in on all aspects of the draft study, including the alternatives the Port Authority will be studying further. Don’t miss these last opportunities to make your voice heard in support of the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel alternatives, which would be a quadruple win to reduce the economic, environmental, transportation, and societal costs of our truck-dependent freight system:

  • Thursday, February 26, 2015, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (rescheduled from February 10)
    North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, One Newark Center, 17th Floor, Newark, NJ 07102
  • Thursday, February 26, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (rescheduled from February 10)
    Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, 140 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07305
  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (rescheduled from January 29)
    Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 23, Kew Gardens, NY 11415
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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — During his State of the Borough speech, Diaz called on the state to stop dragging its feet and redevelop the Sheridan Expressway.

Hicksville commuters — Governor Cuomo has announced a $120 million improvement project for the Hicksville LIRR stationthe busiest station on Long Island.

Fair Haven, NJ Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli — The bike-friendly mayor is taking his campaign for streets safety to Washington to participate in the USDOT’s Mayors’ Challenge.

Ossining Village Board of Trustees  Ossining has adopted a Complete Streets policy which will take effect immediately.

New Rochelle, NY — The City Council has approved two development projects near the town’s Metro-North station, which will include affordable housing.

Metro-North riders — By mid-April, all Metro-North conductors will carry credit card machines.

Statewide transit riders — On Thursday, state and local electeds came together at separate events in Buffalo and in Yonkers for a unified call to action: the State must prioritize funding for statewide transit systems.

New York City road users — WNYC analysis of NYC’s speed camera program has found that the program is improving safety, as both tickets and crashes have decreased in areas with cameras.

» Continue reading…

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Can the Capital District’s Central Avenue Return to its Multimodal Glory Days?

The Central Avenue corridor connecting Albany and Schenectady has been in the news lately after four-year-old Ashiqur Rahman was killed by a turning garbage truck at the intersection with Quail Street in Albany. Pedestrian deaths and injuries are nothing new to Central Avenue, long known as one of the Capital District’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians. And although efforts are underway to make this urban arterial more friendly to users of all types, it seems that opportunities to transform it into a truly multimodal corridor are being ignored.

Central Avenue, originally known as the Albany Schenectady Turnpike, once had a streetcar line, making it a truly multimodal corridor. But when the streetcars were removed in 1946, the renamed Central Avenue was expanded to its current auto-centric format, with two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane for much of its length.

AlbanyMuskrat

The same scene today.

The same scene today.

Today, in Albany and Schenectady, Central Avenue runs through dense urban neighborhoods with significant pedestrian traffic, while in Colonie and Niskayuna, it runs through areas that were originally built out as streetcar suburbs. And in other locations, Central Avenue carries traffic generated by regional shopping destinations. And yet, the mobility solutions applied the New York State Department of Transportation and local jurisdictions have been essentially uniform and largely unchanged since the roadway’s auto-centric postwar conversion. Predictably, that single-minded focus on vehicular throughput has led to poor outcomes for other users.

» Continue reading…

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State and Local Electeds Join Transit Operators and Advocates in Urging Governor Cuomo to Support Statewide Transit

New York State Assemblymember Shelley Mayer

New York State Assemblymember Shelley Mayer

Yesterday morning in Westchester, a group of more than 30 elected officials, transit users, transit operators and transportation advocates braved the bitter cold for a press conference to call on Governor Cuomo to increase funding in his Executive Budget to support statewide public transit systems, which face a collective need of $33 billion over the next five years.

Transit ridership across New York is at an all-time high, yet Albany’s investment is not rising to the occasion—the proposed 2015-2016 Executive Budget keeps operating assistance flat at 2014-2015 levels for all non-MTA transit systems. The advocates and electeds called for more than $140 million in new operating aid investment for non-MTA transportation systems, and also called for a fully-funded MTA Capital Program.

The Westchester stakeholders have a vested interest in transit investment because of the role transit plays in both the urban and suburban areas of the county. Bee-Line, considered to be the ‘backbone‘ of county employment, is one of the country’s largest suburban transit programs, providing nearly 33 million trips annually, according to Assemblymember Shelley Mayer. Yet despite a 3.5 percent increase in ridership from 2011 to 2013, state operating support has leveled out, leaving riders to shoulder the burden. Tri-State’s Veronica Vanterpool testified that “Every dollar invested by Westchester County into Bee-Line yields $23 in economic activity and supports 1,260 jobs. Few other investments yield this rate of return while also reducing traffic congestion and pollution, spurring transit-oriented development, and creating equitable communities.”

And given the role of Metro-North in supporting housing, employment and economic development across Westchester, lawmakers and advocates are refusing to settle for anything less than a fully-funded MTA Capital Program so that Metro-North riders can be ensured safe, reliable service in the future. Nearly $3 billion of the five-year Program is slated for Metro-North improvements.

» Continue reading…

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Roads and Rails, Buses and Bridges: Breaking Down Connecticut’s Transportation Vision by Project Type

Yesterday we wrote about what’s included in “Let’s Go CT,” Connecticut’s long-term statewide transportation plan. Both of the documents released yesterday — the “5-Year Transportation Ramp-Up Plan” and “Connecticut’s Bold Vision for a Transportation Future” — are nicely laid out and full of details about each project, but they lack user-friendly charts to help see where the money is going.

In order to provide a clearer picture of Connecticut’s spending priorities moving forward, we’ve broken down spending totals for the five-year ramp-up and for the following 25 years by project type.

» Continue reading…

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What’s in Connecticut’s 30-Year Transportation Vision?

letsgoCTcoverConnecticut Governor Dannel Malloy made an historic announcement today that will set the tone for the state’s transportation priorities for the next three decades. Speaking at the State Capitol in Hartford, the governor outlined a 30-year, multi-modal vision for Connecticut’s transportation system, which includes not only upgrades to aging highways and bridges, but also railway improvements, new bus rapid transit lines, and funding to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The governor’s vision will extend well beyond his time in office. What he will oversee, however, is the five-year “ramp-up,” which invests an additional $2.8 billion above the State’s expected levels of transportation funding. That $2.8 billion is front-loaded with $1.7 billion for railway improvements, which can be accomplished “faster and cheaper than big-ticket interstate jobs.”

The full 30-year, $100 billion plan, introduced today as “Let’s Go CT,” is being billed as a “Bold Vision for a Transportation Future.” How bold? Here are some of the highlights:

» Continue reading…

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