A December 2011 report from Transportation for America indicated that over 10 million drivers cross structurally deficient bridges in New Jersey every day. In 2010, NJDOT released a report showing that half of New Jersey’s roads were in deficient condition. And with NJDOT slipping away from its fix-it-first policy and spending more on new road capacity, that’s a costly mistake. New Jersey must focus on maintaining existing roads and bridges, while also making them more resilient in extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy, which, according to a recent Asbury Park Press article, caused approximately $10 million in damage to the transportation infrastructure of Monmouth and Ocean counties alone.
Given that NJDOT passed a Complete Streets policy in 2009 and Monmouth County passed its policy in 2010, the rehabilitation of these damaged facilities should be seen as an opportunity to make New Jersey’s roads and bridges safer for pedestrians and bicyclists by adding Complete Streets amenities like sidewalks and bike lanes. Ocean County, which suffered significant road damage, has the highest population of seniors in the state (27 percent). These residents are twice as likely to be killed while walking as their younger neighbors. And as we learned in Sandy’s wake, communities are more resilient if driving isn’t the only option.
While some bridges and roads have already been repaired, there is still time to adjust projects that are currently underway (and those which have yet to get “shovels in the ground”) to include Complete Streets principles. Doing so will not only help New Jersey weather future storms, but also benefit the state’s economy and environment every day of the year.