This Week in the Garden State: Still No Solutions

Monday

The New Jersey Senate Legislative Oversight Committee held a special hearing with invited guests (including TSTC) to discuss the state’s transportation problems. Unsurprisingly, the main topic was Amtrak’s tunnel woes and the pressing need to move forward immediately with Gateway. Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner warned the record rail delays in July caused by aging infrastructure could become the “new normal” without investment or action.

Tuesday

Senator Cory Booker arranged a meeting for August 18 with Governor Christie and US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  Senator Booker plans to facilitate a “real conversation” about moving forward with the Gateway Tunnel Project.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer unveiled a plan to finance the multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Under his plan, a new nonprofit development corporation, Gateway Development Corporation, would design, plan, finance and carry out Amtrak’s vision of the Gateway Program.

But not everyone is on the same page. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t jumping on the Gateway bandwagon just yet, failing to see the benefit to the Empire State: “It’s not my tunnel. Why don’t you pay for it?” he told reporters. “It is an Amtrak tunnel that is used by Amtrak and by New Jersey Transit.”

Wednesday

First Legislative District lawmakers are trying to resurrect discussions about extending Route 55 to Cape May, pointing to traffic delays last week caused by a construction accident on the Garden State Parkway. The current expressway ends in Maurice River Township in Cumberland County after original plans to lengthen the roadway from Philadelphia to Cape May were suspended due to environmental and engineering challenges. Senator Jeff Van Drew is looking to reallocate $8 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to complete the project–which may not be the best use of scarce TTF dollars, given the already poor condition of roads and bridges in the state.

Thursday

Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski told radio station NJ 101.5 that transportation underfunding was nothing new. The lack of political will to even address the funding crisis–especially considering the TTF will go bankrupt by the end of the fiscal year–is unfortunately also old news.

Friday

According to statistics released by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, middle-aged adults are now more likely to be killed while bicycling than children, a significant shift in which group is most at risk. Adult cyclists 35 to 54 years old now have the greatest mortality rate with men having a mortality rate six times that of women–most likely due to the increased frequently of which men ride.

The CDC lists a number of suggestions to improve cycling safety, but that list falls short: enacting legislation to protect cyclists and other vulnerable users of the roadway was not mentioned. In 2014, 30 percent of all road fatalities in NJ were cyclists and pedestrians, and so far in to 2015, NJ is on track to exceed that percentage.

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