NY, NJ, CT Stimulus Wish Lists: Reasonable, Disappointing, Secret

East Side Access and Garden State Parkway widening projects are both projects in search of federal dollars.

The East Side Access and Garden State Parkway widening projects are both in search of federal dollars.

Transportation advocates are still fighting to get more transit funding into the economic stimulus bill, with anywhere from $9-12 billion likely to be included in the final package. But another important question is where that money will go once it is disbursed.

The stimulus bill as currently proposed includes $30 billion in “highway funding,” but that term covers road maintenance, bridge repair, and even bicycle and pedestrian projects, not just new or bigger highways. Whether the stimulus actually gets spent in a smart way depends on the states, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and municipalities that receive the money.

The Tri-State Campaign recently acquired the New York and New Jersey transportation “stimulus wish lists”; Connecticut has not made its list public, and has received plenty of deserved criticism for it. New Jersey’s list contains sprawl-inducing road projects, some of which may not be legally allowed to accept federal funding because they have not undergone needed environmental reviews. New York’s list comes off as reasonable, with plenty of funds for transit and maintenance and some cycling and pedestrian projects.

Below are links to the New York and New Jersey lists, brief summaries, and analysis. MTR offers these lists with the major caveat that they are not final and may change before stimulus money is given out. Also, it is unlikely that states will get as much money as they are requesting. However, the lists do provide a look into each state’s transportation priorities.

New York

New York’s $3.7 billion stimulus wish list is split about 50-50 between roads and transit. NYSDOT’s piece of the pie is $1.9 billion, of which $260 million would go to non-MTA transit buses and two Albany-Rensselaer rail projects. Another $110 million would go to aviation.

This leaves $1.5 billion for NYSDOT road projects. The list does not seem to include any major expansion projects, at least in the downstate region; in many of the regions (such as NYC and the Capital Region) all road money goes toward maintenance. At least $51 million would go to bike/ped projects, with the main beneficiaries being the Bronx River Greenway and the upstate Erie Canalway Trail.

$324 million is requested for the Thruway Authority, all for maintenance (mostly for replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge’s crumbling deck).

Finally, the MTA is requesting $1.5 billion, mostly for behind-the-scenes capital projects like power substations. Stimulus money would also go towards the East Side Access project to bring the LIRR into Grand Central Terminal, rehabilitating 10 Brooklyn elevated subway stations, and raised grates that would come with attached bike racks.

[Update: As we said, these lists may change, and the MTA has made some changes to its list, most significantly the addition of the Fulton Street Transit Center.]

New Jersey

New Jersey’s $3.1 billion list at least continues the state’s trend of transit investment; it includes $1.1 billion for NJ Transit projects including $600 million for Access to the Region’s Core.

Unfortunately, the list has some troubling pieces that reinforce TSTC’s concerns that the state’s transportation policy may be backsliding. For example, while NJDOT’s list includes plenty of needed maintenance it also includes money for the Rt. 206 Bypass in Byram Township, a contested road widening project which was thought to be dead.

Furthermore, the state is seeking money for the widenings of the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike. Federal subsidy of these sprawl-inducing road projects would be bad enough, but it’s not clear that this is even legal. Neither project has undergone the detailed environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act to receive federal funds.

Connecticut

Despite reaching out through multiple channels, MTR hasn’t obtained a copy of Connecticut’s stimulus wish list — and neither has anyone else, it seems.  [Update 2/23 - the list is finally available!] Some details have come out, however. Television station WTNH reports that ConnDOT has $700 million in “shovel ready” projects, while Design New Haven cites “high-profile sources” who say the state will concentrate its transportation dollars on widening the I-95 “Q” Bridge and paying for the way-over-budget (and very necessary) New Haven Rail Yard expansion.

Still, this secrecy has earned the governor’s office criticism from parties as diverse as the Hartford Business Journal and ConnPIRG. Notably, the federal stimulus bill will require all grants made with stimulus funds to be published online. Connecticut and the other states in the region should be following the federal lead when it comes to transparency.

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12 comments to NY, NJ, CT Stimulus Wish Lists: Reasonable, Disappointing, Secret

  • anonymous

    Perhaps sprawl is not something to fear at this time since people are not likely to be building many new homes?

  • [...] Tri-State Transportation Campaign says the TZB gets its some funds ($234 million) but those dollars are for decking and [...]

  • [...] NY, NJ, CT Stimulus Wish Lists: Reasonable, Disappointing, Secret … (blog.tstc.org) – January 27, 2009Furthermore, the state is seeking money for the widenings of the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike. Federal subsidy of these sprawl-inducing road projects would be bad enough, but it’s not clear th… [...]

  • I would like to remind all that NYMTC has opened a public comment period for the current TIP and National Economic Recovery Legislation funding. The information is provided below.

    Notice of Comment Period

    Topic:Potential Projects Funded through the National Economic Recovery Legislation

    Period: January 26, 2009 through February 6, 2009

    Comment Period:
    The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) has identified a list of potential transportation projects that may be funded through the National Economic Recovery Legislation that is currently under development. If funded, these projects will need to be amended into the NYMTC 2008-2012 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). In anticipation of the amendment process, a ten day public comment period for the list of potential projects begins on January 26, 2009 and ends on February 6, 2009. At the beginning of this period, information will be posted on the NYMTC website at http://www.nymtc.org/abouttip-down.cfm.

    Transportation projects funded with Federal monies are required to be on NYMTC’s TIP. This comment period gives the public the opportunity to provide feedback to NYMTC on the list of potential projects. As the National Economic Recovery Legislation is developed, NYMTC is advancing public review of potential projects in order to expedite the programming of funds provided once the legislation is passed.

    Comment Submission:

    Lower Hudson Valley Area
    Mid-Hudson South TCC
    Attn: Jean Shanahan
    4 Burnett Blvd
    Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
    jshanahan@dot.state.ny.us
    (845) 431-7921

    Long Island Area
    Attn: Kevin Wolford
    Nassau/Suffolk TCC
    NYS Office Building, 4th Floor
    250 Veterans Memorial Highway
    Hauppauge, NY 11788
    kwolford@dot.state.ny.us
    (631) 952-6115

    New York City Area
    New York City TCC
    Attn: Uchenna Madu
    47-40 21st Street, 9th Floor
    Long Island City, NY 11101
    umadu@dot.state.ny.us
    (718) 482-4559

    The comment period begins on Monday, January 26, 2009 and comments are due in writing by
    4 p.m. on Friday, February 6, 2009. Comments should be sent to the contact noted above for the area of the project location.

    Background:
    The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) is a regional council of governments and transportation providers that serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for New York City, suburban Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. In order to be more responsive to transportation planning needs at the local level, NYMTC is comprised of three Transportation Coordinating Committees (TCCs). The Mid-Hudson South TCC covers Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties; the Nassau/Suffolk TCC covers Nassau and Suffolk counties; and the New York City TCC covers the five boroughs of New York City.

  • Thanks for the comment, Pamela. The NYMTC public comment period is only for new projects that are not in the TIP already. And like the rest of the projects in the stimulus lists, there is no guarantee that any will get funding!

  • [...] Jersey is seeking to use federal stimulus money to pay for the Parkway widening. The Campaign warned against using stimulus money for the project [...]

  • [...] Area Stimulus Wish Lists: Reasonable, Disappointing, Secret (Tri-State Transportation Campaign) [...]

  • [...] the exceptions: Expansion projects are mercifully absent from its stimulus wish list, according to a recent analysis by the Tri-State Transportation [...]

  • [...] Michelle Ernst and Steven Higashide about the state DOT wish lists, especially New York’s. (It’s reasonable, they say.) With the transportation debate set to play out again on a massive scale as the [...]

  • [...] York’s stimulus wish list is reasonable, with a 50-50 split between road and transit projects and an emphasis on much-needed [...]

  • [...] in the way New York plans to spend its federal stimulus money. Stimulus project lists from NYSDOT and metropolitan planning organizations are heavily tilted towards road and bridge repair and bus [...]

  • [...] preserve transit service for millions of New Yorkers, kept wasteful road widenings in check, and watchdogged the federal stimulus. Campaign reports have helped spark and inform debate on topics like cross-Hudson transit and [...]

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