At a August 22 press conference in South Plainfield, NJ Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno announced the award of 84 grants totaling $12 million to municipalities and counties for infrastructure improvement and safety projects. Among them was $100,000 for a transit village streetscape project in Linden, designated a Transit Village in 2010. (There were 29 grants totaling $10 million through the Local Aid Infrastructure Fund program and 55 grants totaling $2 million through the Safe Corridor program.) Earlier this month NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson also offered a ringing endorsement of the Transit Village program, which helps towns support walkable, transit-oriented downtowns.
This is despite the fact that, as previously reported, dedicated funding for the Transit Village program was eliminated in this year’s budget. While funding was restored through advocacy by Tri-State and NJ Future, Governor Christie used the line-item veto to cut it again. Despite the cut, Commissioner Simpson promised to continue to fund transit village projects through Local Aid during budget testimony in March 2011.
As Jersey becomes increasingly crowded, state officials are pressing ahead with a plan to increase the number of ‘Transit Villages.’
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson says the idea is to create a situation where ‘you’ve got villages that surround rail stations, so people can actually live, walk, go to the stores, go to school, shop, get on public transportation and get to work where they don’t have to rely on an automobile…it’s an anti-sprawl effort…it’s to get back to doing things efficiently – you know why get into the car to go the cleaners, to get into the car to go to the supermarket, to get into the car so on and so forth if you can do it all around one area.’
He says when towns become a Transit Village, they receive increased funding and grant opportunities, and it means they are ‘areas that have demonstrated to the state that they’ve put the policies and procedures and zoning in place to allow for the development around a rail station…this is what we want to bring to the state to fight sprawl and to give people a reason to come back and live near the main town and not to live where they need to get into a car to do everything…we’re really trying to get the message out that this administration supports Transit Villages, supports transit oriented development.’ [...]
Jersey has a total of 23 Transit Villages right now, but that number is expected to grow in the coming months.
It is worth noting that while Somerville is a designated Transit Village, it only acquired such status in 2010. The completed project at the Somerville station was part of NJ Transit’s “initiative to make ADA upgrades at 35 key commuter rail stations,” and was not funded through the Transit Village program.
Is the Linden grant proof that Commissioner Simpson is keeping true to his promise? Tri-State reached out to NJDOT and was advised that the grant was actually funded through last fiscal year’s budget. Nonetheless, the fact that the Linden Transit Village project was funded through Local Aid is promising, and hopefully, worthy transit village projects will continue to be funded. Stay tuned; the year has only just begun.