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Together North Jersey Forum Puts Spotlight on Healthy Communities

Posted: 9/20/2019 2:51:42 PM

Together North Jersey Forum speakersThe average health of New Jersey residents is improving. But there are significant and troubling gaps, particularly affecting low income people and minorities.  That was one of the points raised during presentations on health and heath policy held at the Together North Jersey Forum that NJTPA hosted on September 17.
According to Dr. Giridhar Mallya, Senior Policy Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the solution to health gaps is not equality — giving people the same health services — but equity: “Everyone should get what they need to thrive.”

Paths to achieve health equity are included in the Foundation’s recent report Building a Culture of Health.  He said it focuses on three areas: healthy children and families, healthy communities and high-quality, equitable health and social service systems.

Cailean Kok, Project Associate at Project for Public Spaces, said communities can use the approach of cooperative “placemaking” to create healthy parks, downtowns, neighborhood streets and other public spaces.  As called for in 2017 report, The Case for Healthy Places, this requires attention to five key features: social support and interaction; play and active recreation; green and natural environments; healthy food; and walking and biking.

She said, in seeking to improve health, it is useful to shift from a “pathogenic” outlook, which focuses on the causes of health problems, to a “salutogenic” approach, which focuses on factors that that support human health and well-being, on “what makes life worth living.”
Stephanie Hunsinger, State Director of AARP New Jersey, said her organization increasingly is promoting livable communities to meet the needs of the nation’s aging population.

Most seniors, she said, prefer to remain in their communities as they age. To make that possible, AARP is creating a network of “age friendly communities” around the nation. Participating towns, cities, and counties undertake a five-year process, including an initial needs survey and implementing an action plan.  In the more than 400 communities in the program, projects have included new housing, farm markets, improving parks, creating wellness centers, holding cooking classes or installing parklets.  Even small projects, she said, can have “long term sustainable effects.”

In addition to the September 17 panel discussion, Together North Jersey is helping to promote health in the region through the work of its four task forces and through its various community assistance programs. More details are on the Together North Jersey website.

Five New Bridge Concept Development Studies

Posted: 9/9/2019 1:35:44 PM

The NJTPA Board at its September 9 meeting approved funding for five new Concept Development studies of critical local bridges.

The studies are part of the Local Capital Project Delivery Program, a competitive program which provides federal funding to NJTPA subregions—the 15 city and county members of the NJTPA—to prepare projects for eventual construction with federal funding.  

The approved studies are being funded for Fiscal Year 2020, which began July 1. The studies, totalling $2.4 million, are:

Bergen County: Oradell Avenue Bridge over the Hackensack River, Borough of Oradell
Project Poster          Fact Sheet

Middlesex & Monmouth Counties: Matawan Road (CR 516) Bridge over Lake Lefferts, Old Bridge Township, Matawan Borough, Aberdeen Township
Project Poster          Fact Sheet

Monmouth County: Corlies Avenue Bridge over Deal Lake, Borough of Allenhurst, Township of Ocean
Project Poster          Fact Sheet

Morris County: East Main Street (CR 644) Bridge over Rockaway River, Rockaway Borough
Project Poster          Fact Sheet

Somerset County: Great Road (CR 601) Bridge over Bedens Brook, Montgomery Township
Project Poster          Fact Sheet

At the Board meeting, NJTPA Executive Director Mary Ameen announced that three projects that previously went through Concept Development have been approved by an Inter-Agency Review Committee to advance to Preliminary Engineering and federal funding through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  The three projects are:

  • Valley Road Bridge over the Passaic River in Somerset and Morris Counties;
  • Manhattan Ave Retaining Wall and Slope Stabilization Improvements in Hudson County; and 
  • Columbia Turnpike Bridge over the Black Brook in Morris County
Go to the Local Capital Project Delivery webpage for further information on current and past studies.

New Studies of Local Mobility Issues Launched

Posted: 8/2/2019 3:09:18 PM

Five new studies of local transportation issues are being launched this summer by NJTPA’s member agencies. 
The studies are funded through the Subregional Studies Program which provides two-year grants on a competitive annual basis to the 13 counties and two cities represented on the NJTPA Board -- known as subregions. The five new studies are:

  • Hudson County Ferry Service Expansion Assessment - will study opportunities to expand existing or create new ferry service within Hudson County.

  • Monmouth County Tourism and Event Travel Demand Management Study – will examine strategies to address traffic related to tourism and large events within the County.

  • Somerset County Roadway Corridor Safety Analysis Study – will identify five roadway corridors to conduct Road Safety Audits.

  • Union County Truck Mobility Study – will examine truck mobility on county roads throughout the county.

  • Warren County Transportation Plan – will develop a County-wide transportation plan. 

The study program is designed to help subregions develop recommendations for transportation improvements consistent with the NJTPA’s long range transportation plan and the goals of the Together North Jersey’s Regional Plan.

Ultimately, the program aims to generate recommendations ready for further development or implementation consistent with regional planning goals.
Further information on the program and studies underway or recently completed is on the subregional studies page of the NJTPA website.

Study Explores Climate Impacts and Responses in Passaic River Basin

Posted: 7/26/2019 2:01:17 PM

Cover of the Passaic River Basin studyThe chronic flooding in the Passaic River Basin, home to some 2.5 million people, is likely to get worse as a result of climate change, raising serious threats to homes, businesses and the area’s heavily used transportation system.  That is a key conclusion of a major study sponsored by the NJTPA which sought to assess the threats and find solutions.
Encompassing parts of eight New Jersey counties and extending into New York State, the basin is centered on the Passaic River and its tributaries. Since 1900, at least 26 lives have been lost in floods in the basin, with property losses of $5.5 billion. An April 2007 flood resulted in over 5,000 people being evacuated and major storms in recent years have also taken their toll.
The Passaic River Basin Climate Resilience Planning Study projected the occurrence of extreme heat events and extreme precipitation events for two horizon years: 2045 and 2080.  The projections found that areas adjacent to the region’s waterways — already prone to flooding — could face more frequent and more severe storms. In 2045, the annual chance of a storm  producing 9.1 inches of precipitation over 4 days is approximately twice as likely as today.  This, coupled with continued development in the areas, the report says, “increases the likelihood of future property losses, threatens the economic stability of communities, and puts public health and safety at risk.”
At least 10 percent of the 3,245 transportation assets evaluated in the basin were determined to be “highly vulnerable to existing and future heat and/or floods events.”  This includes bridges, culverts, rail, roads including bus routes, and transit rolling stock.
In consultation with a technical advisory committee, which included representatives of the eight area counties and state agencies, 71 adaptation strategies were developed to safeguard infrastructure and address the threats. Among the recommendations was to, “Use the vulnerability assessment findings in current and future planning and design studies to inform the siting of new infrastructure and updates and improvements to existing infrastructure.”  Further data collection, modeling and regionwide coordination were also called for.
The final report and several appendices are available for download at the NJTPA website.

Professor Myron Orfield Calls for Action on Racial Diversity in NJ Suburbs

Posted: 7/17/2019 9:41:53 AM

New Jersey has made great progress in realizing racial diversity in its suburbs in the last two decades, but dozens of communities face the threat of resegregation due to ongoing discrimination and disinvestment, according to Myron Orfield, Director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School. Orfield highlighted these trends in a presentation to the NJTPA Board on July 8.
His presentation, “The Challenges and Opportunities of Growing Racial Diversity in the Suburbs of Northern New Jersey,” was part of NJTPA’s ongoing series of speakers, forums and events in preparation for updating its long range transportation plan from 2045 to 2050.
Communities that are racially diverse (where minorities compose 20 to 60 percent of the population) have better school achievement, more upward mobility and more positive attitudes about racial differences, Orfield said.  Nationwide, such communities are growing.  By 2040, he said, the nation will be fully multi-racial, with no race having a majority.
In New Jersey, diversity has grown dramatically.  In 2000, 41 percent of the state’s population lived in predominately white suburbs.  That number dropped to 17 percent in 2017. 
Despite the progress, he said, suburban areas tend not to stay integrated for long.  New Jersey leads the nation in the rate at which suburban communities are losing their diversity, as whites shift to “whiter enclaves” In other suburbs or center cities. 
The reason he says is “relentless driving discrimination,” in which some real estate brokers steer buyers to areas based on race, some mortgage lenders hamper minority homeownership and zoning policies undermine affordable housing. The result are communities that lose their “tax capacity” and suffer declining schools along with their ability to attract and retain residents and businesses.
Unless the situation is addressed, said Orfield, once thriving suburbs will become “disinvested places” that developers and investors will “write off” for future projects.
One of the key solutions is affordable housing.  New Jersey’s Mt. Laurel court decision, which required each town to build an equitable share of affordable housing, was not fully implemented in the state.  But it has become the model, he said, for at least 10 other states, such as Minnesota, Washington and Oregon, that are stabilizing diversity through affordable housing. 
Creating networks of magnet schools in and around cities such as Louisville based on a metropolitan-wide approach to governance, he said, has also helped counteract resegregation. 
He predicted that emerging court challenges to school segregation in New Jersey will soon lead to other opportunities for the state to foster diversity. The state, he said, must rise to the challenge. “It’s a hard thing to work on but important thing in a multi-racial, metropolitan nation.”
View the video of his presentation above.  Presentation slides can be downloaded here.