First Look: NJDOT Draft Capital Program

NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson helped restore dedicated funding for the Transit Village program

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) released its draft capital program late last week, and Tri-State’s preliminary review indicates the program is a mixed-bag for advocates of sustainable transportation and development.

Dedicated Transit Village Funding Restored, Safe Streets to Transit Funding Increased

In the draft capital program, NJDOT restored $1 million to New Jersey’s Transit Village initiative. The popular, nationally recognized program, which provides incentives for transit-oriented development, was defunded during the 2012 fiscal year. This year, however, NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson made good on his promise to TSTC to restore its dedicated financial backing. Twenty-four municipalities have already been named Transit Villages, and municipalities continue to seek the designation.

The draft capital program also increases Safe Streets to Transit’s funding to $1 million. The $500,000 increase from last year will help eager municipalities make streets safer around transit hubs. But this increase may still not be enough given the high demand for funding. For each of the past two years, the program has received over 75 applications, but less than 8 percent of applicants have received funding.

Reduced Funds Overall, Less Money for Transit

While the NJDOT draft capital program increases funding for these vital initiatives, the agency’s capital program will receive $300 million less than last year’s $3.5 billion.

Broadly speaking, it appears that the 2013 draft capital program spends less on bridges, highway congestion measures, maritime, and freight initiatives, while spending more on safety programs and road maintenance. The plan also shows a slight decrease in NJ Transit funding. The agency’s executive director, James Weinstein, clarified that there would be no fare hikes.

Both the NJDOT capital program and state budget remain in draft form. A New Jersey Senate budget hearing on April 24 will address the state’s transportation and development finances, and the NJDOT capital program and state budget will not be finalized until July.  Tri-State’s full analysis of the capital program will dig more deeply into the spending plan in the coming weeks.

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