How Will Bicyclists and Pedestrians Be Accommodated on a Rebuilt NJ Route 35? Let Us Count the Ways

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Route 35 in Mantoloking will have bike lanes with a painted buffer (buffer width may vary depending on road width). | Image: Streetmix

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There were shoulders — not buffered bike lanes — in NJDOT’s original plan for Route 35 in Mantoloking. | Image: NJDOT

No, it wasn’t an April Fools’ prank. On April 1, the New Jersey Department of Transportation revealed revised plans for the $265 million, 12.5-mile Route 35 Reconstruction Project. The original reconstruction plan for the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Route 35, which was first announced in February 2013, was touted as a complete streets project, but it provided little in the way of bike accommodations other than paved shoulders in some segments of the right of way.

The updated plan includes 10 miles of bike accommodations — mostly dedicated bike lanes, with shared lane markings or “sharrows” in some locations. The change comes after a year of advocacy by Tri-State, along with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, to assure that this project serves as an example for New Jersey and rest of the nation of how complete streets can be implemented.

The project, which extends through eight municipalities, has been divided into three sections:

Mileposts 0-4 (Berkeley, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights and Toms River)

Route 35 North, from the entrance to Island Beach State Park in Berkeley through 6th Avenue in Toms River, will have a continuous bike lane of either four feet or five feet in width for all but 11 blocks. These 11 blocks will include sharrows.

On Route 35 South, from 6th Avenue in Toms River to Grant Avenue in Seaside Heights, bicyclists will have a four-foot dedicated lane, however, between Grant and Lincoln Avenues, cyclists will have shared road infrastructure. From Lincoln Avenue, southbound cyclists would be diverted one block east to Boulevard, which has no bicycle accommodations, and then rejoin Route 35 south of K Street, where there will be a four-foot-wide bike lane all the way until the entrance to Island Beach State Park in Berkeley.

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An Increased Gas Tax Will Help NJ Drivers Save Money

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The more NJ drivers know about the state’s gas tax, the more likely they are to support a gas tax increase. | Photo: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger

Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling recently released the results of a poll regarding public support for an increase in New Jersey’s gas tax. The results are hardly shocking: nearly two-thirds of adult voters in New Jersey oppose any hike, while roughly one third supports paying more. It’s not surprising that people are reluctant to pay more for something willingly.

But what was surprising was that once people learned New Jersey’s most recent gas tax increase was 26 years ago, and that at 14.5 cents per gallon it’s the third-lowest gas tax in the nation, they were more likely to favor higher gas taxes. In other words, the more people know about New Jersey’s gas tax, the more they are inclined to support an increase.

This made us wonder if and how respondents’ answers might change if they knew even more about the desperate state of transportation funding in New Jersey. Currently, 100 percent of the dedicated revenue generated by the gas tax is going toward paying off debt, and not toward funding transportation projects. Over 11 million motorists drive over a structurally deficient bridge in New Jersey every day, and more than 40 percent of NJDOT pavement was not in acceptable condition as of last year. (Given the beating roads have taken this year, that number may have grown.)

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New Jersey Remains a Complete Streets Leader, while New York and Connecticut Slowly Make Progress

best-complete-streets-2013Smart Growth America released its Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013 report last month. The report ranks each Complete Streets policy enacted in 2013 using a system that measures ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores each policy based on those ideals.

While there weren’t any policies from the tri-state region in this year’s top 10 (Trenton was #8 in 2012), both New York and New Jersey have achievements worth mentioning. New Jersey saw the greatest addition of policies in 2013 with 17 new Complete Streets policies adopted (California was #2 with 14 new policies), and the Garden State is ranked #2 nationwide with 78 policies (behind only Michigan, which has 79). The New Jersey Department of Transportaion also had the highest-ranked state internal policy in the nation.

In addition, several Complete Streets policies in New Jersey and New York scored above the median score of 60 (out of 100):

New Jersey

  • Lawrence  (79.2)
  • Trenton*  (78.4)
  • Linden*  (74.4)
  • Camden*  (74.4)
  • Metuchen  (72.8)
  • Chatham  (70.4)
  • Woodbridge  (63.2)
  • Cranford*  (60)
  • Netcong  (60)

New York

Part of the reason New Jersey is so well represented in the rankings is because of NJDOT’s promotion of Complete Streets adoption and implementation. NJDOT provides an incentive point on Municipal Aid grant applications to those municipalities that have passed Complete Streets policies. The department also offers a Complete Streets guide to policy development and an implementation guidebook.

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No End in Sight for NJ’s Transportation Debt Spiral

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We sure are, Governor, and it looks like we’re going to continue to pay for the foreseeable future. | Image: @GovChristie/Twitter

According to New Jersey State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, “No money is being provided through the proposed 2015 budget to help the Transportation Trust Fund pay for road construction projects.” In other words, Governor Christie has once again failed to make good on a promise to fund transportation with more cash and less debt – the major selling point of his now three-year-old five-year Transportation Capital Program. While this is certainly not good news in terms of the state’s mounting debt, it also doesn’t come as a shock. Tri-State, among others, has long been skeptical about how Governor Christie and the State Legislature would meet the state’s transportation funding needs without increasing revenue. The entire five year (2012-2016), $8 billion transportation capital plan is financed using debt and the spoils from the cancelled ARC tunnel, which will run out in 2016.

Since announcing his transportation funding plan in 2011, Governor Christie has repeatedly used debt and gimmicks to fund transportation in New Jersey. In 2013, transportation funds were used to plug the General Fund deficit resulting in the State taking out an additional $261 million in debt to fill the hole in the transportation capital plan. In fiscal year 2014, the State planned to spend $375 million in Pay As You Go (PAYGO) funding, but ultimately this measure was replaced with a one-time shot of $250 million from some crafty capital project planning and higher than expected proceeds for previous years’ transportation bond sales.

And once again, this year’s planned funding allocation of $490 million will go to plug part of the general fund deficit. As a result, it is expected that Governor Christie will look for more bonding to pay for transportation projects but where that bonding authority will come from remains unknown, especially, according to the Transportation Trust Fund Authority, since it appears the TTF does not have enough bonding authority to take out more debt. Under current statutes, the TTFA “allows up to 30 percent of the Transportation Program Bonds that are permitted to be issued in a given year to be issued instead in a preceding fiscal year.” This means that TTFA would only be able to bond $1.023 billion in this fiscal year leaving over a $300 million gap in this year’s transportation program, while at the same time putting additional pressure on funding next year’s plan.

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Coming this Summer: Regional Bike Share in Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken

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The Jersey City/Hoboken/Weehawken bike share system will employ Nextbike’s Cruiser Comfort bike. | Photo: City of Hoboken

Announced yesterday, Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken will launch a regional bike share system this summer. With 800 smart-bikes, 50 bike stations and two full-service pavilions (one in Hoboken, the other in Jersey City), it is slated to be the largest “next-generation” bike share system in North America.

The program will be operated by Bike and Roll and it comes at no cost to the three cities. In addition to user fees (annual, weekly and daily memberships will be offered), revenue sources will include sponsorships and advertising. The cities will receive a percentage of profits after capital expenditures have been recouped.

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Since We Can’t Fix What Happened on Super Bowl Sunday, Let’s Focus on Improving the Daily Commute

Delays persist on NJ Transit while the agency remains focused on uncovering what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. | Photo: CBS New York

Delays continue to plague NJ Transit’s everyday riders, but the agency and state leaders remain focused on trying to solve what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. | Photo: CBS New York

After the Super Bowl transit “nightmare,” New Jersey Transit (NJT) announced there would be special legislative committee hearings and a Board investigation to figure out what caused such a “hellish commute to and from MetLife Stadium.”

If only state officials focused their efforts instead on solving the problems that plague NJ Transit commuters every day. February has been a dismal month for NJ Transit so far, with delayed trains becoming just another part of the daily routine. So why hasn’t anyone launched an investigation into the cause of these problems? The Super Bowl has come and gone, but the daily commute is here to stay.

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Rutherford Should Have Put a Bike Ring On It

A pedestrian was struck at the intersection of East Pierrepont Avenue and Orient Way along the route of the now-stalled Rutherford Bike Ring. | Map: Rutherford Green Team

According to a Rutherford Police report, a 45-year-old man was struck and severely injured while crossing Orient Way on Saturday. The incident occurred near the [...]

“Mass Transit Super Bowl” Highlights the Difficulty of Getting Across the Hudson

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Photo: John O’Boyle/The Star-Ledger

Even with the weather on its side, New Jersey Transit was unable to meet the transit demands of the approximately 28,000 attendees who purchased rail tickets to the Meadowlands station. Super Bowl fans waited hours at cramped stations on overcrowded platforms and squeezed into tightly-packed trains to make their way to and from the game. With each 10-car train only able to accommodate 1,600 passengers, it took hours for attendees to return home after the Seahawks throttled the Broncos yesterday.

But while train service may have struggled, it appears that the many more fans who arrived by bus had a smoother ride.

The Super Bowl Host Committee offered a “Fan Express” bus service from nine locations in New York and New Jersey. To expedite the trip between Manhattan and New Jersey, one westbound lane of the Lincoln Tunnel was dedicated exclusively to the buses, an infrastructure improvement that is noticeably lacking during regular weekday commuting times.

So, what are the lessons learned from the first mass transit Super Bowl?

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New Jersey Pedestrian Safety Bills Get a Second Chance, with More Time for Consideration

Black Horse Pike, pictured here, could benefit from one of the bills being reintroduced in the New Jersey Legislature. | Photo: Ben Fogletto/Press of Atlantic City

Black Horse Pike in Atlantic County, pictured here, could benefit from one of the bills being reintroduced in the New Jersey Legislature. | Photo: Ben Fogletto/Press of Atlantic City

Last spring, toward the end of the 2012-2013 legislative session, several New Jersey legislators (both Democrat and Republican) introduced an arsenal of bills focused on improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable users of New Jersey’s roads.

Unfortunately, the bills saw little to no movement during that session, but the good news is that the bills have been reintroduced for the 2014-2015 legislative session, which began on January 14 (2012-2013 reference numbers are bracketed).

  • S231/A958 [S2774/A4063](Allen/SingletonConaway, Spencer) a vulnerable user bill  which increases penalties for motor vehicle violations resulting in serious bodily injury or death to pedestrians, cyclists, or highway repair crew members
  • A1591 [A3762] (Spencer, WagnerEustace) which would increase penalties for careless driving when a violation results in injury or death to a pedestrian
  • S230/A959 [S2773 /A4064] (Allen/Singleton, Conaway) which requires a percentage of motor vehicle fines be used to support Safe Routes to School initiatives
  • S229/A960 [S2772/A4065] (Allen/Singleton, Conaway) which increases fines for the violation of certain laws concerning pedestrian safety and traffic control and dedicates funds to certain roadways
  • A1600 [A4059] (Spencer) which requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching a bicyclist or pedestrian

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How NJ’s Bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund Costs Drivers an Extra $600 a Year

Photo: state.nj.us

Photo: state.nj.us

A recent Star-Ledger editorial discussed the issue of pothole maintenance as a seasonal issue that’s unrelated to New Jersey’s larger transportation issues:

The four-wheeled obstacle course is a New Jersey tradition. Who hasn’t felt his skeleton rattle after driving across a car-eating crater disguised as an ordinary puddle?

True, New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure is troubled. But potholes are seasonal, not symptoms of a larger problem. Anywhere wintertime temperatures drop below freezing, potholes pockmark the landscape.

At last year’s budget hearing, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson stated in his testimony that 41 percent of the state’s highway pavement is already in unacceptable condition. As a result, New Jersey motorists spend, on average, $601 per year in additional vehicle maintenance costs. In other words, because New Jersey can’t keep up with the cost of maintaining roads, motorists end up spending hundreds on “flat tires, bent wheels, wheel alignments and axle damage.”

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