Fix-it-First Investment Takes Priority in NJ’s FY 2015 Transportation Capital Program

NJDOT logo colorNew Jersey’s 2015 Transportation Capital Program reveals the state is spending less on unsustainable expansion projects and more on maintenance and preservation. According to Tri-State’s analysis, the FY 2015 Capital Program is dedicating the highest share of funds towards road and bridge maintenance and the lowest percentage of funds to expansion projects in recent memory.

Expansion projects in the 2015 Capital Program comprise only 3 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects comprise nearly 32 percent. By comparison, expansion projects made up 10 percent of the 2014 Capital Program funds and maintenance/preservation projects 25 percent; in 2013 expansion projects accounted for about 12 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects nearly 30 percent.

In 2015, for every dollar spent on roads or bridges, about 7 cents will go towards expansion while nearly 80 cents will go toward maintaining existing assets. In 2014 and 2013, about 25 cents on every dollar going to road or bridge projects went to expansion, and about 63 cents went to preservation.

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Transitmix: Fun Site for Transit Nerds, Important Tool for Everyone Else

How do you bring meaningful public participation that’s fun and engaging into transit planning? Code for America’s new Transitmix tool may be able to do just that.

While Transitmix may have been created with transit planners in mind, the website allows users of all abilities and backgrounds to design new bus lines and tweak the routes of existing lines (though unfortunately for the region’s transit riders, the ability to tweak existing routes isn’t yet available for New York City or many communities in the tri-state region).


Renata Silberblatt designed this route from LaGuardia Airport to Broadway Junction with Maspeth’s transit needs in mind.

There is a lot of useful potential to the tool: transit agencies across the tri-state could use Transitmix to get feedback from riders when planning and modifying existing routes; community groups interested in gathering information on local transit needs and desires could also. Imagine attending a public meeting where participants could collaborate to design bus routes on iPads, or having bus riders design or modify a route while they’re aboard a bus, or redesigning your commute from the comforts of your own home, hitting “submit,” and sending your input directly to your transit agency.

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New Report Finds Older Tri-State Pedestrians at Risk

The pedestrian fatality rate for tri-state area residents 60 and older is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60. | credit

The fatality rate for pedestrians 60 and older in the tri-state region is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60. | photo credit

Tri-state region pedestrians aged 60 years and older are disproportionately at risk of being killed in collisions with vehicles while walking, according to a new study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

From 2003 through 2012, 1,492 pedestrians aged 60 years and older were killed on Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York roads, according to Older Pedestrians at Risk: A Ten Year Survey and Look Aheadreleased today. The report found that:

  • Those 60 and older comprised only 18 percent of the region’s population, but accounted for 35 percent of pedestrian fatalities during the 10-year period
  • Those aged 75 years and older represent 6 percent of the tri-state region’s population, but 16.5 percent of pedestrian deaths.
  • The pedestrian fatality rate for the region’s residents 60 and older is 2.5 times higher than that of residents under 60.
  • For residents 75 and older, the pedestrian fatality rate is more than three times that of those under 60.

Tri-State Average Pedestrian Fatality Rate by Age Group (2003-2012)

Source: TSTC analysis of the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia, 2003-2012, U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates and 2010 Census. U.S. fatality rates include tri-state region.

According to AARP, decreased bone density exacerbates injuries sustained by seniors. Coupled with mobility issues that hinder their ability to cross a road quickly, this age group is particularly prone to critical injuries from car collisions. However, simple roadway improvements – clearly marked crosswalks, longer crossing signals and wider pedestrian islands – make walking safer and easier for older residents and younger residents alike.

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NJDOT’s 2015 Proposed Transportation Capital Program: A Better Future in Sight?


It appears as if NJDOT will dedicate less funding for road and bridge expansion projects than in previous years. But will this shift in priorities be short-lived?

The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s 2015 draft Transportation Capital Program, which lays out the agency’s planned transportation investments for all roads, bridges and transit in the state, dedicates a lot less funding for road and bridge expansion projects than in previous years. But will this shift in priorities be short-lived?

Two of 2014’s largest expansion projects—the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge, which received $36 million in the 2014 capital program* and Route 295/42 Direct Connect, which received almost $79 million in the 2014 program—are not in the 2015 proposed document, but will be in future capital programs.

TSTC reached out to NJDOT regarding the Direct Connect project and learned that because the agency funded earlier contracts in their entirety, the next contract is scheduled for 2016. In addition, according to the draft capital program, contracts for the Manahawkin bridge project will resume in 2016 at $22 million, with plans to spend nearly $145 million on the project from 2016-2024.

The silver lining is that the 2015 draft capital program shows what future capital programs could look like if NJDOT were to focus on maintaining existing assets and cut back on large-scale expansion projects. According to TSTC’s analysis**, there are nine road or bridge expansion projects comprising about 3 percent (approximately $54 million) of this year’s proposed capital program funds, as compared to nearly 10 percent ($185 million) of the 2014 program funds.

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White House Report: Without Federal Funding, 81,664 Tri-State Jobs May be at Risk

As the clock ticks down on the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF) solvency and the threat that the US Department of Transportation will slow down and lower reimbursements to state departments of transportation hangs in the air, the National Economic Council and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers have released a new report showing just how […]

Putting the “Fund” in the Highway Trust Fund

In March, MTR reported that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is supported by the federal gas tax and which pays for almost all transportation projects across the U.S., is anticipated to run dry by the end of the month.

Unfortunately, with less than a month to go, the situation has changed little since March. In a recent letter to heads of state DOTs, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx termed it “dire”, and many local electeds would agree that that is the case.

Though an agreement has not been reached on how to fund the HTF, it is not for lack of proposals from our leaders:

Corporate Tax Reform

President Obama’s GROW AMERICA Act– the Administration’s surface transportation reauthorization proposal—calls for “pro-growth business tax reform” to fund transportation infrastructure. According to the Administration, this will generate $150 billion. Streetsblog has called thisa “progressive and thoughtful” proposal “dead on arrival, even though it had support from the Republican chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp.”

Corporate Tax Holiday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed a corporate tax holiday to fund the HTF. As The New York Times describes the plan, “American multinationals would escape taxes on 85 percent of their profits currently held in tax-deferred foreign accounts, provided they bring the money to the United States in the next year.”

The Times notes that after creating $20-$30 billion in two years, a corporate tax holiday would “lose money — by one government estimate, a simple tax holiday would lose $96 billion over 10 years — because the low tax rate would be applied to profits that would have been brought home over time anyway.” Senator Reid’s proposal is a bit more complicated than “a simple corporate tax holiday” – his office claims that the proposal is structured to earn $3 billion over 10 years. However, as The Times points out, these kinds of policies encourage “the hoarding of profits in tax-deferred foreign accounts in anticipation of future tax holidays.” The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not support Senator Reid’s plan.
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What’s the Difference? GROW AMERICA Act vs. MAP-21 Reauthorization

The current federal transportation bill, MAP-21, is expiring soon, and our leaders in Washington have come up with two new bills to potentially replace it. Earlier last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its MAP-21 Reauthorization proposal, which was unanimously approved within just a few days. The other proposal is the GROW AMERICA Act, which the White House released in late April. As MAP-21 nears expiration, it’s important to understand some key differences between the two options currently on the table and what they would both mean for investments for sustainable transportation:

  • Overall amount and length:
    • GROW AMERICA Act (GAA): $302 billion — an increase of $87 billion over the current bill — and four years long
    • MAP-21 Reauthorization (M21R): Maintains current funding levels (plus inflation), six years long
  • Amount going to highways and roads:
    • GAA: $199 billion
    • M21R: $265 billion for highways and a highway-focused freight program
  • Amount going to transit:
    • GAA: $72 billion. Also funds the popular New Starts/Small Starts transit grant program from the Transportation Trust Fund (the proposal’s new name for the Highway Trust Fund), not from general revenues. The proposal creates a new grant program called the Rapid Growth Area Transit Program ($2 billion over four years).
    • M21R: Because the Senate EPW Committee is only responsible for the highway portion of national transportation funding, it is unknown what M21R has in store for transit, passenger rail and some other safety programs.

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To Make Roads Safer, Tri-State Communities Must Focus on Arterials and Speed

Arterial Slow Zone on McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint. | Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Arterial Slow Zone on McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint. | Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

While Mobilizing The Region readers don’t need to be convinced that walking can be a dangerous undertaking in many parts of the tri-state region (especially for seniors), Smart Growth America’s 2014 Dangerous by Design report provides even more evidence of the unfortunate perils of being a pedestrian. The report finds that:

  • Of all United States metropolitan areas, the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metro area has the highest percentage of traffic fatalities that were pedestrians.
  • New York State has the third-highest pedestrian fatality rate for pedestrians 65 years and older.

The analysis examines pedestrian fatalities through a few different lenses. Dangerous by Design uses a Pedestrian Danger Index to measure the likelihood of a pedestrian being killed by a car for each state and metropolitan area, and it also looks at road type, the posted speeds of roadways where pedestrians were killed and pedestrian fatality rates by age and race. The report provides metro area and county breakdowns by state for certain statistics, too.

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Pew Report Highlights Crises in National, State and Local Transportation Funding


As we hear more and more about the nation’s vast infrastructure needs, the Highway Trust Fund‘s impending bankruptcy and MAP-21’s looming expiration, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re facing a national “transpo-mageddon.” Adding to this view is the Pew Charitable Trusts’ new analysis, “Funding Challenges in Transportation Infrastructure,” which takes a close look at national, state and local funding for transportation projects. The report, released on May 5, paints a stark picture of the current nationwide transportation funding crisis, with three particularly salient points for the region and nationwide:

1)      States rely on a combination of funding sources for transportation projects. According to Pew’s analysis, the federal share of state highway and transit funding for New York and New Jersey is less than 25 percent; the federal share for Connecticut is 30-34.9 percent. Though considerably less explicit than T4’s recent findings, the point remains the same: all states depend on the federal government to help pay for transportation projects.

2)      State and local governments are spending less money on highway and transit projects. Although the Pew report doesn’t provide an analysis for each individual state, it does show that from 2003 to 2011, state investment on highway and transportation projects decreased by 25 percent. In 2003, states spent $105.9 billion (in 2011 dollars); in 2011, this dropped to $79.8 billion. Local funding also dropped, from $78.5 billion in 2003 to $73 billion in 2011. Federal funding increased only slightly during this period, from $56.6 to 57 billion.

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Without Congressional Action, Tri-State Region May Lose More than $5 Billion in Federal Funds in FY 2015

State departments of transportation are growing concerned about the Highway Trust Fund’s pending insolvency. So what does this mean for communities across Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York?

According to Transportation for America’s (T4) recent report, The End of the Road? The Looming Fiscal Disaster for Transportation, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut collectively stand to lose over $5 billion in federal highway and transit funding in fiscal year 2015 if Congress doesn’t act to add new revenue to the Highway Trust Fund’s highway and mass transit accounts. Of this amount, the downstate region’s urbanized areas – the corridor stretching from eastern Connecticut to southern New Jersey stands to lose over $2 billion.

end-of-the-road-T4AT4’s calculations (broken out by state and by urbanized areas with populations over 200,000) assume that federal funding levels in fiscal year 2015 would remain the same as fiscal year 2014. In fiscal year 2014, communities across the country received almost $47 billion in federal funding for highway and transit projects. However, with gas tax receipts only able to cover already-promised commitments, this means that in fiscal year 2015, states, regions and transit agencies would find themselves short nearly $47 billion for new transportation projects. States sometimes supplement federal funds with state, local or private dollars for transportation projects, but the analysis makes clear that, historically,“federal funds account for the lion’s share of almost any major project in the country.” From 2001-2012, T4 found that federal dollars comprised 71.3 percent of Connecticut’s state capital transportation budgets, 44.1 percent of New York’s and 35 percent of New Jersey’s.

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