New Report Confirms: Turnpike Widening Still a Turkey

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NJTA assumed that widening the Turnpike would not increase traffic on other roads, but standard traffic modeling procedures show that congestion will increase on the roads highlighted in red above.

Tri-State has released an independent analysis of the NJ Turnpike Interchange 6-9 widening that finds that the $2.7 billion project is unnecessary and the same congestion relief can be achieved by less expensive and environmentally threatening methods.  The proposed widening would add 170 lane-miles of new road giving new life to sprawling land use patterns and flying in the face of NJ’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis, which was prepared by Smart Mobility, Inc. and commissioned by Tri-State, found multiple errors in the NJ Turnpike Authority’s traffic calculations that overstate future traffic for the corridor. In addition, it was discovered that NJTA’s traffic model only incorporated one of the four standard inputs that most transportation agencies run in their models.  As a result, congestion figures were not properly calibrated and ended up overstating traffic volumes.

Specifically, the report highlights six deficiencies in the project’s environmental documents that lead to an overstatement of traffic growth in the corridor:

  1. The failure to include the impacts of recent toll increases or programmed future toll increases;
  2. Reliance on unrealistic levels of future jobs in the study area;
  3. Overestimation of suburban growth;
  4. Omission of impact of widening on future land use;
  5. Failure to account for reduced driving by senior citizens;
  6. The possible overstatement of growth in through and freight traffic.

With the corrected numbers and modeling, the utility of widening the Turnpike disappears.  Smart Mobility’s corrected model projects that, even if no new lanes are built, only 1 of the 8 segments of the project area will be over capacity in 2032.

Given the lower current and predicted traffic, an expansion of the variable tolling program already in use on the Turnpike could provide any congestion relief needed.  Currently, Turnpike tolls vary depending on time of day, with higher tolls charged during rush hours. By making these charges more flexible, both by price and according to the level of congestion on the road, the road could be managed in a way that keeps traffic flowing at trouble spots like the exit 8A merge.  If a greater level of management is necessary, a High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane could be added.  The HOT lane can be added to the road as it currently exists, or a limited, smaller widening can be pursued to accommodate it.

NJ residents would be better served if the state spent money on projects that created more jobs, like fix-it first projects or transit expansions. As it stands, the multi-billion dollar Turnpike expansion is nothing but a drain of dollars and continued congestion for New Jersey.

View the full report here.

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19 comments to New Report Confirms: Turnpike Widening Still a Turkey

  • Cat Stoker

    A study paid for by your group that reached exactly the conclusions your group wanted it to reach. Very independent, indeed!

  • GP Olsen

    The Turnpike widening is going to happen regardless of the weeping and gnashing of TSTC teeth. And it will be a godsend, especially for weekend drivers.

    It is time for a shift of energy to where it might actually do some good.

  • Freeways handle far more traffic with greater safety then other types of vehicular roads; yet this organization is just another one of the lock-step jesuitical anti transportation groups pretending to be something else!

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I don’t know. Wouldn’t you rather spend 3 Billion dollars (that NJ doesn’t have BTW) somewhere where it would be most beneficial, then on a project that will be underutilized?

    Driving is pretty much down the past two years; the first time in decades! And we’re just a dictators sneeze from $4 gas again and decade away from where it will surely cost over $10 or more.

    And it’s proven. Highways create their own demand by inducing more sprawl. etc. Build it and they come. Take it away and they go elsewhere (not that I think that’s a good idea for the Turnpike).

    Also, if you think that the Turnpike Reports are by some divine guidance, perfectly objective and correct then you just don’t know the business. Their reports also say what the Turnpike want’s them to say.

  • Interesting how the lock step groups always have it as highways versus transit rather then say transport infrastructure versus the bloated military budget.

    And they would have us believ that humanity will just throw in the towl on driving because they have no more imagination then those that assume that people will forget about the time savings (completely disregarding the new eletric autos as the Fisker Karma, Tesla, and the Chevy Volt) and just instead take a street car- leaving more space onb the roads for the wealthier. TTC- you can do way better then this sort of lockstep transporation subversion!

  • Red

    TSTC is Jesuitical? I think you need to stop reading the Da Vinci Code, Douglas. Unless this is some sort of opaque metaphor you haven’t bothered to explain.

  • Jeff Anzevino

    Lock step, huh?

    Some of these comments are obviously “lock stepped” with the same forces that have enabled through government subsidies a one-dimensional, auto-centric suburban transportation system to unleash a wave of costly urban sprawl across our once rural landscapes. This has resulted in society as a whole paying for the costs of air pollution, climate change, non-point source water pollution, loss of farmland an local food and agricultural resources, protection of oil reserves, as well as local government’s cost of providing essential services to inefficient land use patterns (read: higher taxes).

    The study has found several flaws in the Turnpike Authority’s “analysis,” including the fact that the unintended consequenses of sprawl are not taken into account, therefore, I commend Tri-State for having the foresight to commission the work. New Jersey needs an honest look at the costs and benefits of Turnpike expansion and this would not be possible without the study.

    Anyone who thinks wider highways are a “godsend” for relieving traffic obviously has not paid attention to the manner in which our cities, suburbs, and rural areas have evolved over the past 50 years, nor understands the “transportation land use cycle.” Wider roads encourage more driving, more traffic jams and the need for even wider roads. Even those once-strident highways engineers and many departments of transportation are beginning to realize that you cannot build our way out of traffic congestion. The solution to the interrelated problems of traffic congestion, lack of mobility, environmental degradation, etc. requires a more holistic approach than highway widening. We need land use policies that encourage compact, infill development that can be served by transit is needed.

    And anyone who thinks Tri State is “anti-transportation” is merely demonstrating a wholesale lack of understanding of the organization’s mission and many accomplishments over past 15+ years. There’s more to transportation than wider highways.

    And I don’t believe that Tri-State or other transportation advocacy groups believe for an instant that people will suddenly give up their cars. But it would be nice to be able to choose to drive or choose to take transit, walk or bicycle. Unfortunately the 20th Century road building frenzy has limited the choice of those who live outside of NYC.

    Thank you Tri-State for advocating for a more diverse transportation system and leveling the playing field made unequal since the cabal of auto makers, rubber companies, etc bought up and dismantled the street car lines back in early to mid-20th century.

    Now about that bloated military budget…. we may have a point of agreement there. But don’t we need to protect all our oil under all their sand? ;)

  • Michael King

    Analysis and statistics are seldom independent, especially with regard to public policy. The Turnpike people hired consultants to show what they wanted. TSTC hired consultants to show another opinion. It’s a public policy debate and to suggest otherwise is folly.

  • Troy

    The NJTP needs to be widened. Southbound There are 5 lanes merging into 3 and it causes a major back up of which which they are trying to eliminate.

    There is no problem with roads being wider where their usage is greater.

  • R Troy

    The NJ Turnpike widening is desperately needed. Not for growth, but to handle existing traffic. I use mass transit and commuter rail daily, and prefer government funding to go in that direction, but this road loses the bulk of its capacity when you suddenly hit a certain point heading south. Backups can be for 20 miles. Going north even someone stopped on the side of the road brings traffic to a complete stop. The pollution and fuel waste here is obscene, let alone the effect it has on people.

    At the same time, freight rail needs to be improved in this corridor, especially for freight heading to NYC, Long Island, and Ct. The long awaited NJ to Long Island freight rail connection that PANYNJ was created to built is needed now far more then ever. Doing this at the same time (along with related rail improvements) would take care of much of the eventual traffic growth on the NJ Turnpike.

  • [...] expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike from interchanges 6-9 will have plenty of impacts, from more cars on the road to loss of wetlands.  In Bordentown Township, where officials and residents have opposed the [...]

  • “There’s more to transportation than wider highways.”

    Agreed.

    But when do your organizations ever favor any addition of freeway capacity?

  • Concerned

    Perhaps if those who are for the Big mistake owned land that was going to be stolen by corrupt authorities under a blank of eminent domain. They would not be so apt to have the misconception that this will be any less another than a huge mistake by people that couldn’t see a good thing if it bit them.

  • [...] have helped spark and inform debate on topics like cross-Hudson transit and expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike. Readership of Mobilizing the Region has grown by 50% over the last year, and we recently revamped [...]

  • Mike Mancuso

    I don’t mind the Turnpike being widened, traffic congestion, especially on the weekends, is just awful on this strecth of the highway. But I think from exits 8A to 6 they could have just decided to add two additional lanes in each direction, instead of extending the current car truck lanes. Five lanes each way handles the volume fine once you get north of 8A. Could have saved a little money, as they wouldn’t have to widen the truck lanes between 8A and 9. I guess either way it wouldn’t matter. Widening the roadway will require the exit and entrance ramps to be reconstructed.

    I travel often between exits 5 and 16W, and to me one annoying part of the car/truck lanes is when one side is closed because of constuction, or an accident. Ex.. Just a couple weeks ago on a Saturday night, the truck lanes were closed for construction, starting at exit 14. The work they were doing was all the way down near exit 8A. Seems like a waste to have 30+ miles of highway closed for no reason, and it causes needless congestion on the open roadway. They should include ways to cross over (Other than exiting and re-entering at a rest stop).

    ** I sometimes take I-295 to I-195 to get on at 7A, but I-295 is just a mess between exits 45 and 52, and they are starting to work on that now as well. Nice that they start major projects on the two major north-south highways in Central NJ at the exact same time. Both several years overdue.

  • [...] has argued that this wasteful approach extends to the giant-scale widenings, which don’t include demand management strategies and are basically designed to fail. Past experience shows that the expansions are likely to trigger [...]

  • [...] history of the Turnpike widening project, which has been poorly justified and promises little but induced traffic and more sprawl.  The trees would have offered noise and pollution mitigation along the widened [...]

  • I cannot wait to read simple things more of this decent topic. So much of computer Ive never even thought of. You sure did put a new twist on something that Ive heard a huge amount of about. I dont believe Ive actually read any scenario that does this subject as good justice as you simply just did.

  • Wider roads mean more cars. Do we need more cars?

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