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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States Spend on Expansion While Roads Decay

According to Repair Priorities 2014, most state DOTs “are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have.” | Image: Smart Growth America

With people driving less and federal largesse not what it used to be, it would make sense for state departments of transportation to shift away from building [...]

Steal This Complete Streets Checklist

As state departments of transportation try to reduce the stubborn problem of pedestrian and cyclist deaths, one tactic they can use is to help local communities adopt complete street policies. In the tri-state region, few are doing as good a job on that front as the New Jersey Department of Transportation. On its complete streets website, NJDOT has published guides not just for how to develop complete streets policies, but also how to come up with a plan to implement them.

Included in both guides is a version of the checklist NJDOT itself uses when it’s developing a project. NJDOT requires that the project manager and designer fill out the checklist “during the earliest stages of the Concept Development or Preliminary Engineering Phase so that any pedestrian or bicycle considerations are included in the project budget.” Among other things, the checklist reminds staff to

  • examine existing pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure
  • measure existing levels of non-motorized travel and identify missing infrastructure
  • coordinate with the local transit agency
  • and ensure that projects abide by pedestrian and bicycle design standards.
NJDOT's project checklist.

Two of the 12 items which make up NJDOT’s complete streets preliminary engineering checklist.

The value of New Jersey’s complete streets guides goes beyond the checklist, however. The guides also offer advice for local leaders on how to support complete streets beyond just adopting policies. For example, the implementation guide suggests a list of typical plans that may need to be updated after a complete streets policy is passed (master plan, circulation, land use, etc.). It also has examples of how the development review process can support complete streets, and “lessons learned” from towns and cities that have done the work already.

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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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New Jersey 2013: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

NJ-GBU-2013Even without a catastrophe like Super Storm Sandy, there were still plenty of major transportation stories in New Jersey last year. 2013 was a banner year for pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the Garden State: NJDOT was recognized at Tri-State’s 20th Anniversary Benefit for its commitment to Complete Streets, the number of municipalities with Complete Streets policies continues to grow, bike share is taking hold in a handful of communities, and a number of legislators stepped up to the plate to introduce a package of pedestrian and bicycling safety bills.

But for just about every step forward, there has been another step back. One community trashed three years of planning on a network of cycling routes, and the jury is still out on whether NJDOT will translate good policy into good Complete Streets projects when re-building roads damaged by Sandy and in other projects throughout the state.

But by far the biggest fail for New Jersey 2013 was the fact that no progress has been made (or was even attempted) to address the state’s looming transportation financing crisis.

The Good

Complete Streets spread across the state — Continuing on the momentum of 2012, there were nineteen new Complete Streets policies adopted in New Jersey municipalities in 2013.

State leaders introduce pedestrian and bicyclist safety bills — State Senator Diane Allen, along with Assemblymembers Herb Conaway, Timothy Eustace, Celeste Riley, Scott Rudder, Troy Singleton, Grace Spencer and Connie Wagner, sponsored six separate pieces of legislation in 2013 that could help make New Jersey safer for walking and biking.

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Super Bowl Attendees Get a Westbound Bus Lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, but Daily Commuters Aren’t So Lucky

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson spoke yesterday during a news conference on transportation to Super Bowl XLVIII. | Photo: AP Photo John Minchillo

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson spoke yesterday during a news conference on transportation to Super Bowl XLVIII. | Photo: AP/John Minchillo

What does it take to be considered worthy of a westbound Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) in the Lincoln Tunnel?

Evidently, Super Bowl tickets.

New York City and New Jersey transportation leaders announced plans yesterday for enhanced transit services for the game. The MTA, NJ Transit and PATH will be operating close to normal weekday rush, and they’re planning to operate a “Fan Express” bus which will have its own westbound XBL in the Lincoln Tunnel.

This is good news for fans traveling to MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl, especially since there will only be 13,000 parking spaces available (and by permit only), and 70 percent of game-goers will be expected to use mass transit. All in all, nearly 80,000 people are expected to arrive at the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

But what about the 225,000 daily weekday bus commuters who travel to New Jersey from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) via the Lincoln Tunnel? Don’t they deserve a similarly dedicated westbound bus lane?

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Pulaski Closure Plan Fails to Prioritize Transit, Mitigate Congestion

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The plan to mitigate congestion when the Pulaski Skyway’s northbound lanes close in March doesn’t include enough of an incentive to use transit. | Photo: Flickr/hydropeek

Late Friday afternoon, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced “travel options” for the impending two-year closure of the Pulaski Skyway’s northbound lanes. Whether the options presented will be enough to mitigate the project’s impacts for the 32,500 motorists who currently use these lanes each day, as well as the surrounding communities, remains to be seen.

Changing modes, or changing routes?

NJDOT conducted a survey to help guide the planning of alternate routes and additional transit options. According to the survey’s results, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed said they would consider switching from a car commute to a transit commute. But the planned transit improvements don’t appear to be enough to accommodate all of these potential new riders, so it’s no surprise that 75 percent of respondents said they’ll likely continue to drive.

Rail

NJ Transit is adding two additional trains in the morning and evening on the Morris & Essex line between Summit and Hoboken, and the North Jersey Coast line will also see one additional train during the a.m. and p.m. peak. On the Raritan Valley line, however, the plan is to increase only capacity — not frequency — during the a.m. (6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and p.m. (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) peak travel times. Frequency of service between High Bridge and North Branch is already sparse with only four a.m. peak trains; in the evenings after 6:00 trains run every 30-45 minutes. Increasing frequency on these lines would help draw commuters out of their cars, but it’s not being considered as part of the congestion mitigation plan.

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The NJDOT FY2014 Capital Program, This Time on a Map

The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently released an interactive map showing where and what types of projects are planned for fiscal year 2014 in the Garden State.

According to a Tri-State analysis from earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) $3.98 billion FY2014 Capital Program Capital Program shows some positive trends including greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and [...]

Rutherford Backpedals on Complete Streets and Transparent Government

Guide lines have been painted on freshly-paved Orient Way. Notice the lack of guide lines for bike lanes. | Photo: Cyndi Steiner

Guide lines have been painted on newly-paved Orient Way. Notice the lack of guide lines for bike lanes. | Photo: Cyndi Steiner

On November 13, the Rutherford Borough Council in New Jersey unanimously approved a new road striping plan for the first phase of the Rutherford Bike Ring. In an ironic twist for the bike plan, this first phase of the striping did not include bike lanes or any other Complete Streets design components. Despite three years of meetings, letters of support from residents, local, state and federal elected officials, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Rutherford Downtown Partnership and the heads of the police, schools and health departments — and in addition to almost $115,000 in taxpayer supported planning and design work for the original Bike Ring — the latest version of the plan was approved within minutes of first being presented, without public viewing and without public comment.

Not only does the recent action contradict the Borough Council’s previous work to advance the projectthe Council passed five different resolutions supporting the Bike Ring between July 2010 and December 2011 but it directly flouts Rutherford’s nearly three-year-old Complete Streets policy. These Council actions helped contribute to a grant award of $89,600 in March 2012 to undertake a feasibility study to identify the best route for the project. At the time the grant was awarded, the Borough Council had already approved the first phase of the Bike Ring, which included bike lanes on Orient Way, the spine of the Town’s bike plan.

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Rutherford Cyclists Fight for Bike Ring

Orient Way as it currently exists has no striping, so drivers perceive wide travel lanes, which encourage speeding.

The Rutherford Bike Ring plan would add buffered bike lanes, as well as high visibility crosswalks, to Orient Way, a popular route for bicyclists in the area. | Photo: NJ.com

Rutherford’s Bike Ring, a [...]