“Alternative 2,” shows a continuous ramp that also widens a section of the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway that is currently very narrow. | Image: DRPA, Ammann & Whitney
Last night, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) outlined the three current design alternatives for the planned Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian and bicyclist ramp and solicited feedback from the public on a preferred design. The ramp project is poised to greatly expand the safety and convenience of non-motorized travel between southern New Jersey and Philadelphia by removing the existing stair tower and replacing it with an ADA-accessible ramp. Specifics on the three current alternatives have been posted on the DRPA website.
TSTC and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia support a final ramp design without switchbacks that would also widen a narrow existing section of walkway between 3rd and 4th Streets. This design would have the ramp touch down at 5th Street and would allow for continuous westbound travel for pedestrians, bicyclists and those in wheelchairs towards Rutgers University, downtown Camden and points beyond. (DRPA’s project consultants performed pedestrian and bicyclist counts in January 2013 and found that the vast majority of current walkway users are traveling to and from 5th Street).
The option of widening the narrow walkway section and providing a continuous ramp without switchbacks is reflected in “Alternative 2,” which is projected to cost $2.9 million. This alternative is a great bang for the buck, and is significantly less expensive than the $4.3 million projected cost for “Alternative 3,” which includes one switchback and was designed to save seven parking spaces on Pearl Street, where the ramp would touch down. With a large number of parking spaces available, a good number of which remain vacant, on the nearby Camden waterfront and transit access to the surrounding area via the RiverLINE and PATCO, this minimal loss of parking should not be a significant factor in selecting a ramp design. “Alternative 1″ is only projected to be slightly less costly than “Alternative 2,” would include three switchbacks, and would not widen the current narrow walkway section.
Taking last night’s public statements, and additional public comments generated via email, into consideration, the DRPA Board will move to select the preliminary design for this project sometime this summer, and identify a final design by fall. Construction is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2014.
The public can still provide feedback on the ramp designs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch | Photo: finchformayor.com
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in tri-state transportation news.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch – Mayor Finch joined advocates for a walking audit of Bridgeport’s East Main Street on Monday.
NJ Assemblymembers Scott Rudder and Celeste Riley — Rudder and Riley co-sponsored a bill that would allow neighborhoods and community organizations to petition NJDOT to lower speed limits in residential neighborhoods without sidewalks.
Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) – NICE will reinstate the N87 bus between Hicksville and Jones Beach, which was cut in 2010.
Citi Bike — As of Tuesday afternoon, New York City’s bike-share system has more than 11,000 annual members signed up, and the program hasn’t even launched yet.
NYC Transit – According to a new report from the MTA’s Inspector General, it’s been over a decade since NYC Transit has inspected some of the critical support structures that hold up elevated trains.
NYC Councilmember Domenic Recchia Jr. – Missing the point of bike-share entirely, Recchia grilled NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan over concerns about lost parking spaces since the installation of Citi Bike stations began.
NYS Assemblymember William Boyland Jr. — On top of the corruption charges he’s facing, Boyland owes $4,560 for 33 parking violations.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch (at right) observes conditions on East Main Street with with Connecticut AARP State Director Nora Duncan. Walking behind them are (from right) AARP volunteer Mike Klein, Bridgeport City Councilwoman Lydia Martinez, and Bridgeport Director of Social Services Iris Molina. | Photo: TSTC
Yesterday, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, City Councilwoman Lydia Martinez, and Director of Social Services Iris Molina joined AARP volunteers and Tri-State Transportation Campaign staff to examine pedestrian conditions on a half-mile stretch of East Main Street between Crescent Avenue and Stillman Avenue.
Volunteers used an AARP-provided survey to note intersection and sidewalk conditions, driver behavior, the comfort and appeal of the corridor and any safety issues they encountered. The corridor includes the East Side Senior Center and a planned senior center on Barnum Avenue, as well as a Greater Bridgeport Transit bus route (Route 9) and several small businesses. It is also just north of the planned Steel Point redevelopment project.
Before joining volunteers to walk part of the corridor, Mayor Finch told them the City “would like to have fewer cars” on the streets and create an atmosphere where “you can park your car in a lot or park your car on the street and walk.” He expressed hope that Bridgeport could experiment with inexpensive, quick traffic calming measures that would make it safer to cross the street, as has been done in other cities. Finch also touted BConnected [B stands for Bridgeport], a smartphone application that residents can use to report problems to the city. (Service requests can also be entered from a computer.) TSTC staff reported several concerns via the app during the course of the audit.
Volunteers had no trouble identifying areas that needed improvement, including faded crosswalks, not enough places to cross East Main Street, and a lack of amenities like benches and bus shelters. The roads and sidewalks flanking the viaduct that carries the New Haven Line over East Main was a particularly problematic area.
Pedestrian conditions near the viaduct which carries the New Haven Line over E. Main St are in particular need of improvements. Volunteers cited a lack of crosswalks and pedestrian signals, poor sidewalk conditions under the viaduct, and a lack of lighting. | Photo: TSTC
Volunteers described their findings at a wrap-up session at the City’s Department of Health and Social Services building. AARP and Tri-State will compile the findings of the walk into a report, which will be shared with the City and used as an outreach tool to build local support for better walking conditions.
NJ Transit advanced a plan to extend Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood last week. | Photo: The Jersey Journal
“If Tenafly doesn’t want it, that’s OK. We’ll take it!”
That was New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson’s reaction when the New Jersey Transit (NJT) Board of Directors voted to approve the study of a modified alternative to the Hudson Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) extension on May 8.
NJT will enter into a $3 million contract with Jacobs Engineering of Morristown to advance a plan to extend the HBLR line to Englewood Hospital instead of extending it to Tenafly. The new proposed route would travel from North Bergen to Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia and then terminate at Englewood Hospital.
Despite its name, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line doesn’t actually serve Bergen County, running only between Bayonne and North Bergen (which, despite its name, is in Hudson County). Last January, NJ Transit held a series of public hearings regarding the proposed extension of the HBLR into Tenafly. Residents of Tenafly, however, have been less enthusiastic about having light rail in their community.
The Englewood Hospital stop was originally part of the alternative that had the terminus in Tenafly. TSTC provided testimony at the public hearing session in Englewood in January 2012 urging NJ Transit to consider a terminus at Englewood Hospital if Tenafly’s opposition continued.
Although an alternative has been selected, funding remains an obstacle for this project. Transportation funding in New Jersey is currently on life support, and future financing is uncertain.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a key component of Suffolk County’s “Connect Long Island” plan. | Photo: trans4m.org
The Suffolk County Legislature adopted a resolution last Tuesday by a vote of 16 to 2 that will provide the county over $320,000 in New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) funding to study potential Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes in Suffolk County. The NYMTC grant funds are provided through the federal government, and Suffolk will only be responsible for the remaining 20 percent of the study’s costs, or approximately $80,000.
Building on the legislature’s near-unanimous vote to expand Sunday and evening bus service, funding for a BRT feasibility study will allow the County to analyze the potential economic, sustainability and community benefits that BRT could bring to all Long Islanders. The feasibility study will build upon a BRT symposium from last October, organized by TSTC and other advocates.
Along with other transit and smart growth advocates, TSTC provided testimony in support of the feasibility study, as it represents a logical first step to determine potential BRT routes that would not only improve transit options in Suffolk County, but also encourage the smart growth and transit-oriented development that is needed to support the system (and vice versa). The feasibility study will be a necessary element in Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s Connect Long Island plan, which emphasizes coordinated land use, transportation and economic development policies.
NYSDOT’s new Complete Streets website.
While the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is not required to lead the local implementation of the State’s Complete Streets Act, municipal leaders, advocates and engineers are looking to the agency for the tools required to plan and execute Complete Streets initiatives. NYSDOT’s new Complete Streets website, however, provides little new information, or inspiration, for those seeking guidance.
The good news is that the Department is seeking feedback on how it can better assist local governments and others with Complete Streets. Here are Tri-State’s suggestions:
1. Revisit Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Planning. It is time for a comprehensive update to the State’s planning process for pedestrian and bicycling facilities. This should include sprucing up, expanding and ultimately adopting the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and creating a comprehensive Statewide Capital Plan for pedestrian and bicycling projects. Both of these items are important tools that could help convince our state and federal representatives to support implementation of these types of projects.
The website should also further highlight the planning resources that already exist. The “Planning” section of the website links only to a two-page 2010 NYSDOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Policy, and leaves out a 1997 pedestrian and bicycling plan and an associated 2005 white paper. Additionally, many regions have already developed their own Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans — links to those plans on this site would be helpful.
2. Update Pedestrian and Bicycle Design Guidelines. There has been a revolution in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure design over the last few years. In addition to linking to the National Association of City Transportation Officials design guide for bicycles, NYSDOT should update their own guidelines: The “Designing” page of their website provides technical guidelines for Complete Streets elements like sidewalks and bicycle lanes, but it links to an outdated NYS Highway Design Manual (HDM), sections of which haven’t been updated since the late 1990′s.
3. Commit to Active Transportation by Funding It. More than a quarter of traffic fatalities are pedestrians and bicyclists, but only two percent of New York’s transportation dollars go to pedestrian and bicycle projects. New York must establish a Fair Share for Safety policy that apportions Highway Safety Improvement Program Funds according to need and create a dedicated line for pedestrian and bicycling investments in NYSDOT’s budget.
The website could also think more innovatively about funding. While the “Funding” page contains links to the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program, there is no link to the recently-announced Federal Transportation Enhancements Funding that’s currently available, and no mention of the possibility that NYSDOT might actually put their own money on the table, or shift some existing, and flexible, federal resources to projects that support walking and biking.
4. Look At What Your Neighbors Have Done. NYSDOT should consider looking into how other state DOTs share Complete Streets information. For example, both New Jersey and Massachusetts conducted Complete Streets training workshops for engineers, advocates and public works employees.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “[H]ighway and recreational facilities that fail to fully incorporate the needs of all users increase the likelihood of potential court settlements in favor of those who are excluded.” | Photo: Smart Growth America
Ever since the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) adopted its Complete Streets policy
in December 2009, New Jersey county
governments have adopted similar policies or have been discussing the potential to adopt similar policies. NJDOT’s Complete Streets policy encourages these local policies and NJDOT awards an extra point for Local Aid applications
if a county or municipality has a policy on the books. Despite this interest and encouragement, county and municipal officials report that when it comes to implementation of Complete Streets designs, their main concern is liability.
In response to these concerns, Tri-State is releasing the New Jersey Complete Streets Liability Primer, intended to be used by local officials and employees interested in passing Complete Streets policies or implementing Complete Streets designs. It contains a basic overview of liability issues related to roadway planning and design in New Jersey, highlights the benefits of Complete Streets designs, and provides information about Complete Streets planning resources. Tri-State has included similar liability primers in the “Complete Streets in a Box Toolkits” released last year in New York and Connecticut.
The Primer also includes statements from the Federal Highway Administration that underscore the importance designing and building roadways that accommodate all users:
With every passing year, the courts become less and less sympathetic to agencies that have not understood the message: bicyclists and pedestrians are intended users of the roadway… highway and recreational facilities that fail to fully incorporate the needs of all users increase the likelihood of potential court settlements in favor of those who are excluded.
This document provides local officials and employees with an introduction to the basic issues related to implementation of Complete Streets policies and designs, and ultimately concludes that local streets and county roads designed to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians are not subject to different legal requirements than any other roadway planning or design decisions.
As part of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (or “Q” Bridge) project, a protected cycle track and off-road path will be built on Water Street, across the Tomlinson Bridge, and onto Forbes Avenue. This is a concept drawing of Water Street.
An agreement between the City of New Haven and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) will create a safe bike connection on Route 1 (Water Street, the Tomlinson Bridge and Forbes Avenue) between downtown New Haven and the city’s eastern port district, including what would be Connecticut’s first-ever cycle track — a two-way, on-street bicycle lane separated from motor vehicle traffic. This type of bicycling facility has been proven to work in other cities but has yet to be tested in Connecticut.
It’s a groundbreaking step for New Haven as well as ConnDOT, which had to sign off on the proposal because Route 1 is a state road. It also represents a major victory for local advocates like Elm City Cycling, who have pushed New Haven to think big and embrace cycle tracks and other protected bike infrastructure.
New Haven transportation director Jim Travers announced the deal at the Bike Walk Connecticut Summit last month and provided more details to the New Haven Independent last week. He also provided MTR with a feasibility document which he described as a preliminary “concept drawing that was used to facilitate the discussion” with the State. The document highlights the westernmost part of the cycle track, where it connects with the planned Farmington Canal Greenway. The final leg of the Greenway will start construction next year, creating a multi-use trail from New Haven to Springfield, MA. The cycle track will connect with the Greenway as it enters Water Street from an on-street bike lane on Olive Street and continues west along Water Street, over the Tomlinson Bridge, turning right into the Port District, continuing on Connecticut Avenue and entering Fort Nathan Hale Park.
Click to view a map of the planned cycle track route.
As the Independent describes it,
[T]he cycle-track will at that point shift over to what is now the southernmost lane of traffic heading east over the Tomlinson Bridge. That lane will [be] separated from cars by a row of tall plastic markers, Travers said. The bridge will have one eastbound and two westbound lanes for cars.
(We’ve created a Google Map of the described route.)
The Tomlinson Bridge has long been a trouble spot for cyclists due to hazards such as railroad tracks, fast traffic, and (particularly after Q Bridge construction began) the lack of a shoulder and sidewalk. Route 1 has repeatedly been found to be the most dangerous road in the state for pedestrians.
The project provides some evidence that a complete streets mentality is pervading ConnDOT. Furthermore, Travers told the Independent that ConnDOT staff had suggested adding bike lanes to State Street as part of an unrelated repaving project. “DOT has started to change their mindset from movement of vehicles to movement of people,” he said.
There’s much more work needed to make complete streets part of ConnDOT’s standard operating procedure. But it reflects well on the State that it is willing to endorse this type of cutting-edge design. The cycle track would be built as part of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge project, likely in 2015.
Suffolk County will see more buses on Sundays in the near future.
A week after the Public Works and Transportation Committee issued a ringing endorsement, the Suffolk County Legislature adopted an amended resolution that directs $1.1 million in unanticipated State Transportation Operating Assistance-included in the 2013-2014 New York State budget-towards expanding Sunday bus service on Suffolk County Transit. The resolution also directs the Suffolk County Department of Public Works (DPW) to apply for $1 million in federal Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) funding. The County is expected to receive word on whether the application is successful sometime in June.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with the support of 17 legislators of the 18 member body. One legislator recused herself from the vote.
County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to sign the resolution in the coming days or week.
It now falls upon DPW to partner with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the expansion plan most effectively utilizes the new resources to provide the greatest level of service to the largest number of riders.
Hop off a train, hop on a bike. This Citi Bike station at 8th Avenue and 31st Street, across from Penn Station (and steps from TSTC’s office), will have 67 bikes, making it one of the system’s largest stations. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in tri-state transportation news.
Penn Station Commuters (and TSTC) – One of New York City’s largest Citi Bike stations has been installed at the corner of 8th Avenue and 31st Street, just steps from Penn Station (and TSTC’s office!).
Dutchess County, NY – The county’s first sharrows were installed last month on Main Street in Beacon, where there’s an emerging cycling culture.
NJ Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway – The Burlington County lawmakers introduced a three-bill package which would increase fines for drivers who violate crosswalk laws or seriously injure or kill vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists. Additional revenue from those fines would be applied toward safety education, enforcement and enhanced engineering.
NICE riders – Not a great week for Nassau Inter-County Express riders. The bus system made news not only for leaving stops early and stranding patrons, but also for colliding with a minivan, injuring 21 passengers.
Connecticut – A report from the state’s Council on Environmental Quality shows little progress being made on improving air quality.
Justin Bieber – The teen pop star triggered multiple speed cameras in Dubai before he was pulled over and ticketed by police. The Bieb would find it much easier to get away with speeding in New York City, where a speed camera program has yet to receive State approval.