ConnDOT Commissioner's First Task: Community Planning Training

New ConnDOT Commissioner Joseph Marie has taken over an agency that has been marred by corruption and is in dire need of policy reforms that shift its culture away from prioritizing the expansion of roadways and towards maintaining Connecticut’s existing road and bridge infrastructure, promoting mass transit, and investing in smart growth. Those aren’t […]

NYSDOT Smart Growth Test: Long Island's Route 347

The first page of a fifteen-page table of property acquisitions and temporary easements required if Rt. 347 is widened. From Rt. 347 Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Increasingly, the New York State Dept. of Transportation (NYSDOT) and its regional offices are acknowledging the need for a more smart growth oriented and sustainable […]

NJ Pedestrian and Bike Deaths Drop, But State is Still "Skimping on Sidewalks"

162 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in New Jersey in 2007, 9 percent fewer than in 2006. But the good news is overshadowed by the devastating toll of those tragic deaths, and New Jersey’s inability to make sustained progress on reducing bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. In 1998, then-Gov. Whitman pledged to halve New Jersey’s […]

Don't Fear the Speed Hump

The Connecticut Post recently reported that the police department in Seymour, Ct., is jittery about potential liability issues that may arise from installing traffic calming measures like speed humps on a neighborhood street which is seeing heavy traffic and speeding. According to the article, the Seymour PD is concerned that “low profile” vehicles will […]

Contradictions and Non-Answers, Part 2: NJTA Responds to Turnpike Widening Comments

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) has posted official responses to public comments made on the NJ Turnpike expansion project, which would complete the dual-dual configuration (two 3-lane roadways in each direction) by adding up to 3 lanes in each direction between exits 6 and 9, an addition of 170 lane miles. Not surprisingly, the response document offers vague platitudes, ignores new data, and continues to refuse any solution to congestion that doesn’t include more pavement – making it the perfect companion piece to the original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Tri-State has challenged several aspects of the project’s EIS, which found there would be no significant environmental impact (see MTR # 565). Most unconvincing is the NJTA’s evidence that the project is necessary as proposed and that it will provide sustainable congestion relief. Critically, the Authority ignores and fails to analyze whether additional lanes will fill with traffic due to induced demand and contribute to sprawl development (which leads to more congestion, and so on). These have been the historic consequences of highway construction and widening throughout the U.S.

The NJTA response document can be found here. Some notable passages are summarized below:

Purpose and Need

At the heart of any large project is a demonstrable purpose and need. According to the EIS, the purpose and need for the Turnpike widening is “to service existing and future travel demand.” The project assumes annual traffic growth of 2.4% northbound and 3.4% southbound between 2005 and 2032. Yet data we obtained from the Authority show that, since 2004, traffic volumes have leveled off in the project area, calling into question the project’s premise.

In response to a comment from a private citizen that the traffic data, based largely on numbers from 2005-2006, was stale and did not account for the effects of gas prices and the collapse of the housing market, the NJTA defends the timeliness of its data. It’s true that many large projects use numbers that are further out of date (see the Garden State Parkway widening). However, NJTA goes on to state “there is no strong evidence that these numbers have significantly changed over the last two years due to the economic issues stated in the comment.” This is simply false.

Alternatives to Widening

Large project proposals also require analysis of reasonable alternatives. In response to Tri-State’s comment that the Authority’s alternatives analysis was cursory and sometimes provided no analysis at all, the NJTA issued a blanket denial, stating that “alternatives were considered seriously in the EIS. … Sufficient analysis was included in the EIS to conclude that the alternatives are either not practicable from a feasiblility standpoint or would not reduce the needed additions in lane capacity to meet demand, safety, and operations requirements.” Here is the EIS’s treatment of ridesharing as an alternative in its entirety, which clearly lacks any analysis:

Ridesharing refers to strategies that encourage carpooling and vanpooling. Carpooling refers to the arrangement of a group of commuters that rideshare in a participant’s vehicle. Vanpools are generally similar to a carpool; however, instead of using a participant’s automobile, the group uses a van that can be supplied by employers, non-profit transportation advocacy groups or government agencies, with operating costs typically divided among group members and sometimes subsidized by the state and federal government. Depending upon the type of vehicles used, the capacity of a vanpool can be higher than a carpool. Carpools and vanpools tend to be most effective when they run on pre-determined fixed schedules and the number of occupied vehicle seats is maximized.

» Continue reading…

MTA Begins Countdown to Another Fare Hike; Long Island Bus is Hit Hard

MTA staff unveiled a preliminary budget full of bad news at this morning’s board meeting, with the biggest news an eight percent fare and toll increase to take effect in July 2009. The hike, which would be larger than the 2008 fare and toll increase, would raise $200 million towards what could be a […]

Federal Transit Aid the Right Response to Oil Crisis

NYC Councilmember Michael McMahon, union leaders, and transit and environmental advocates called for federal operating assistance to transit agencies at a July 22 press conference.

Nearly every New York City metro area news outlet has reported that the MTA will propose a fare and toll increase at tomorrow’s board meeting, but it […]

Congestion Pricing's Next Stop: Connecticut?

Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy Board has selected a consultant, Cambridge Systematics, to study applying congestion pricing in the state. The TSB, a division of the Office of Policy and Management which sets broad state transportation goals, has been a long-time supporter of congestion pricing and first announced it would conduct the study late last year. […]

Next Transit Project Fatality: LIRR Third Track?

The latest victim of the MTA’s budget shortfalls may be the LIRR Third Track project.

LIRR President Helena Williams told Newsday in a story published last week that the project, which would add an additional track to the Main Line between New Hyde Park and Hicksville, would likely not be included in the next […]

Bridging the Bicycle Gap in South Jersey

According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadephia, more than half of the Delaware River bridges between Lambertville, NJ and Wilmington, Dela. do not allow bicyclists or pedestrians, severely limiting access across the river, particularly in urban areas. A planned replacement for the I-95 Scudder Falls Bridge could continue this pattern, denying bicycles and […]