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Five Municipalities to Receive Complete Streets Assistance

Posted: 4/11/2024 2:58:16 PM

Complete Streets Technical Assistance logoFive municipalities have been selected through a competitive application process to participate in the NJTPA’s Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program.

Belmar, Paterson, Readington and Verona will conduct complete street corridor assessments, while Belleville will develop a bicycle corridor plan. The program will assist the municipalities in documenting existing conditions, exploring potential improvements, and developing recommendations to make it safer for people walking and/or biking in the study areas.

“Complete Streets help make our roads safer for everyone, especially people walking and biking,” said NJTPA Chair John P. Kelly, an Ocean County Commissioner. “They also help create more equitable and healthy communities by giving people more options when travelling. This program helps municipalities advance their Complete Streets goals.”

The NJTPA funds this program and provides technical assistance in partnership with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University and Sustainable Jersey. The Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program helps municipalities bring together key stakeholders to explore a local safety concern and develop concepts for potential solutions using a collaborative approach.

 “It is valuable for municipalities to receive hands-on guidance to move their Complete Streets projects forward. Complete and Green Streets have numerous safety, environmental, equity and health benefits,” said Randall Solomon, Executive Director of Sustainable Jersey. “This work is an important element in the comprehensive sustainability programs of our communities and contributes to our mission to create a more sustainable New Jersey." 

 Complete Streets balance the needs of drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, emergency responders, goods movement and stormwater management based on the local context. They help improve health and safety for people walking and biking and create better places to live, work, play, learn, and do business. When streets are not complete, the negative impacts on public health, safety, equity, the economy, and the environment are disproportionately borne by low-income and minority communities. 

Improving safety is a key goal of this program.

“Across New Jersey and the broader nation, we’ve seen a troubling rise in roadway fatalities, particularly among pedestrians and cyclists,” said Jon A. Carnegie, Executive Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center. “The recommendations that are developed through these projects will help communities enhance the safety of their roadways for all users,”

This is the fourth time the NJTPA has offered technical assistance to municipalities in its region. Learn more at njtpa.org/completestreets.

Next fiscal year to include new pilot programs, long-range plan update

Posted: 3/18/2024 11:05:35 AM

The NJTPA Board of Trustees approved a work program for the next fiscal year, which includes updating the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), and launching three new pilot programs.

The Fiscal Year 2025 Unified Planning Work Program, which begins July 1, details the work of NJTPA’s Central Staff, its member agencies and the state’s eight transportation management associations.

The LRTP is one of the agency’s core documents. It sets a vision for the region’s transportation future and guides the NJTPA’s work. The Board is set to adopt the plan in September 2025. In tandem with this, Central Staff will also work to update the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, which is a four-year list of federally funded projects included in the LRTP. Staff will also lead a consultant effort to estimate the emissions impact of these projects, to ensure they do not have a negative impact on the region’s air quality. This is called the Air Quality Conformity Determination. This determination and the TIP will also go to the Board for consideration in September 2025.

The work program includes several new pilot programs:

  • Complete Streets Conceptualization: This effort will provide consultant-supported planning and project development assistance to advance a local Complete Streets project that addresses community and regional goals regarding safety, accessibility, equitable access to employment and other destinations, access to public transportation, and reduction of single-occupancy vehicle trips. This study will also develop guidelines for a Complete Streets Conceptualization Program including project identification, prioritization and selection, the specific steps to complete the process, and final deliverables.
  • Pedestrian Lighting Analysis: This effort will examine up to 26 locations across the NJTPA region. While only 25 percent of vehicle miles travelled occur at night, the nighttime pedestrian fatality rate is three times higher than during the day. Recommendations will be developed to improve lighting and pedestrian safety at each location. The reports prepared for each location can be used to advance projects through the NJTPA’s Local Safety Program.
  • Intersection Control Evaluation: This effort was recommended in New Jersey’s last Strategic Highway Safety Plan update. It will help develop a performance-based approach for screening alternatives and identifying optimal geometric and traffic control solutions for high-crash intersections. Staff will work with the NJTPA subregions to select 15 locations for evaluation.

The work program also includes two Freight Concept Development studies, Southern Middlesex County North-South Truck Corridor Project in Cranbury and Monroe, Middlesex County; and Hanover Avenue Bridge Catenary Rail Clearance Project in Morris Plains, Morris County.

Several initiatives that began in FY 2024 will conclude in the next fiscal year, including the completion of Local Safety Action Plans for eight counties in the NJTPA region; a consultant-led effort to gather public input for the LRTP; demographics and travel analysis, and freight industry forecasts, which will be used for the LRTP update.

Freight Concept Development Projects Aim to Improve Truck Traffic, Rail Clearance

Posted: 3/15/2024 2:53:53 PM

Two projects selected for the NJTPA’s next Freight Concept Development Program (FCDP) would address truck traffic in Southern Middlesex County and a bridge clearance issue in Morris County to allow more  taller, industry standard freight trains to serve the area.

The NJTPA Board of Trustees approved up to $1.5 million in funding for the two Freight Concept Development Program Studies during its meeting March 11 following approval by the Project Prioritization Committee in February. The funding will commence in Fiscal Year 2025(which begins July 1, 2024).  The two projects are:

Southern Middlesex County North-South Truck Corridor Project, Cranbury and Monroe, Middlesex County

This project advances the recommendation from the Southern Middlesex County Freight Movement Study, completed in June 2023 through the NJTPA’s Subregional Studies Program, to create a north-south truck corridor to mitigate the number of trucks traveling in residential areas. 

The current roadway network can cause trucks to travel on County Route 619 (Applegarth Road) or create confusion about the appropriate truck route, leading to trucks traveling into residential neighborhoods. Among the measures, recommended in the study are applying to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for truck restrictions on key local roads; installing new wayfinding signage for trucks; reconfiguring intersections to better accommodate truck movements, and reducing the speed limit on state Route 32 and standardizing the number of lanes in each direction. According to the study, Route 32 is considered a “truck crash hotspot.” The new truck route would be mostly parallel to the New Jersey Turnpike and County Route 619. It would add capacity and accommodate north-south traffic through Cranbury and Monroe.

Hanover Avenue Bridge Catenary Rail Clearance Project, Morris Plains, Morris County 

This project advances a recommendation from the 2013 Morris/Warren County Rail Corridor Study to explore alternatives for eliminating the rail clearance issue below the Hanover Avenue Bridge. Freight railroads use NJ TRANSIT’s Morristown Line, which has overhead catenary below the bridge that limits the height of rail cars that pass underneath. Once completed, the project will open the entire corridor from Phillipsburg to Morristown for taller, industry standard freight rail cars to travel and serve customers along the main line and several branch lines within Morris County.

More than 1,000 potential freight projects have been identified over the past decade in planning studies conducted in the NJTPA region, many of which do not have a clear path forward toward implementation. The NJTPA’s Freight Initiatives Committee in 2018 approved creating the Freight Concept Development Program, which included a process to identify and select projects to advance. The two projects were selected from among 27 candidate projects.

Huge Federal Transportation Law Heading for Reauthorization

Posted: 3/13/2024 1:59:25 PM

Halfway through the five-year Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Erich Zimmermann laid out the challenges and changes ahead for reauthorization of the $1.2-trillion program to the NJTPA Board of Trustees.

Zimmermann, executive director of the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), spoke before the Board during its bi-monthly meeting on March 11. The Washington, D.C.-based member organization includes regional councils, councils of governments (COGs), regional planning and development agencies, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and advocates for regional cooperation to address planning and development.

National Association of Regional Councils Executive Director Erich Zimmermann speaks to the NJTPA Board during its March 11 meeting.“The tide in D.C. is starting to turn already, from focus on implementation to reauthorization," he said, noting that May 2024 is the halfway mark of the IIJA. “We’re facing a more interesting reauthorization than we usually do.”  
The sheer size of the bill “makes it a different beast when we’re typically just talking about transportation,” he said, as the breadth of the program extends well beyond transportation. There will be big questions about which pieces of the IIJA are going to be preserved and which might be forgone.

Going forward, Zimmermann suggested shifting some discretionary programs into formula programs. “We're big proponents of formula funding, where money goes out and everybody across the nation gets some funding for whatever particular program,” he said.

While there are worthy discretionary grant programs, there are some challenges that come with those grants, including expensive and cumbersome application processes, he said. "At the end of the day, when you have an expensive application process, communities that are less resourced are going to have a harder time succeeding,” he said.

He held up Safe Streets and Roads For All as an example of a discretionary grant that could become a formula program, where funding goes directly to local entities to meet safety needs. “We need to continue to not only bolster that but expand it, so everyone’s getting a piece of that pie, not just those that are able to get through the discretionary grant process,” Zimmermann said.

“One thing we're going to need to do to show Congress we can support robust programs going forward is really accentuating the wins that came out of IIJA and that will continue to come out of this program.” 

A recording of the March 11 Board of Trustees meeting can be accessed here

Commissioner Kelly Highlights Priorities for Term as NJTPA Chair 

Posted: 3/12/2024 8:56:27 AM

Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly told fellow Board members that as NJTPA Chair, improving safety and accessibility along Route 9, one of the region’s most congested corridors will be his top priority. 

“Our infrastructure needs to ensure that people can get to where they need to go safely and efficiently, regardless of their travel mode,” he said at the March 11 Board of Trustees meeting. “Reducing this congestion will also help improve air quality for residents in the communities along Route 9.” 

The Board elected a new Executive Committee, including naming Commissioner Kelly Chair, at its January meeting.  

Chairman Kelly noted that in addition to improving the flow of vehicles along Route 9, it’s important to also consider upgrades to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly in Lakewood. He said he looks forward to working with the New Jersey Department of Transportation to explore solutions for the corridor. He noted that the NJTPA completed a study in 2016 that explored potential improvements to Route 9 in Lakewood and Toms River. 

Improving safety, accessibility and air quality, and reducing congestion — all things Kelly said he would like to see accomplished for Route 9 — are among the NJTPA’s goals in its Long Range Transportation Plan. The NJTPA will be launching an update of that plan, which guides all its planning work, later this year, including extensive outreach to Board members, stakeholders, and the public.  

Another key-theme in the long-range plan is resiliency, and Kelly said that is also an area he would like to focus on, noting that Route 9 is a critical evacuation route during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and forest fires. 

“It’s critical that we harden our region’s infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events,” he said. “While this is particularly important in a coastal county like Ocean, it is increasingly an issue throughout our entire region.” 




NY-NJ Metro Region Plan Aims to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted: 3/7/2024 12:47:47 PM

A partnership of agencies in the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, including the NJTPA, submitted a Priority Climate Action Plan (PCAP) on March 1 as part of a multi-year grant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and other harmful air pollution in the region.

The PCAP is the initial step in fullfilling the terms of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Reduction Grant (CPRG), awarded in September. It includes a GHG inventory, emissions projections, proposed reduction measures, and an analysis of how the measures could benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The plan identifies nine priority GHG reduction measures, aimed at addressing the largest sources of emissions in the region. These measures include:

  • Zero emission passenger vehicle adoption 
  • Zero emission bus and truck adoption 
  • Alternative freight modes 
  • Travel demand management and reduction of VMT 
  • Maritime and air travel emissions 
  • Building electrification and energy efficiency 
  • Grid decarbonization 
  • Waste disposal reduction 
  • Additional cross-cutting measures

The next step will be to create a Comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CCAP) which is due in September 2025, two years from the date of the grant award. The comprehensive plan will include additional research, analysis, stakeholder engagement and community outreach to further develop measures that will help the region meet its emissions goals.

The CPRG is a nationwide grant program funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. The first phase provided $250 million in noncompetitive planning grants to states and other entities to develop both the PCAPs and CCAPs. With a PCAP in place, the states, counties and municipalities in the region can apply for $4.6 billion in competitive grants to implement priority measures. The deadline to apply for implementation grants is April 1.

To view the PCAP and learn more, visit bit.ly/NYNJClimatePlan

Industrial Construction Expected to Slow Amid ‘Flight to Quality’

Posted: 2/26/2024 1:07:37 PM

The industrial real estate market is settling into a new normal after a frenetic few years, with construction of new facilities tapering off yet rents continuing to rise.

Bill Waxman, vice chair, Cushman and Wakefield, and Eric M. Bernstein of Eric M. Bernstein and Associates, LLC, served as panelists for the annual regional industrial real estate update during the NJTPA's Freight Initiatives Committee (FIC) meeting on Feb. 20.

The boom in warehouse construction had been driven by the need for companies to meet strong consumer demand for goods, particularly in the pandemic when consumers turned to online shopping in a big way. That construction is beginning to taper off, according to Waxman. He expects new construction starts will continue to decline this year. The 5.8 percent vacancy rate is still well below the 10-year average of 8 percent.

The market recorded “negative absorption” – supply of building space outstripping demand for it – due to a record 14.4 million square feet of new buildings delivered that all became available at once. The shift began at the start of 2023 after a decade of positive absorption, Waxman said.

Yet rents continue to grow even though vacancy also grows - “It defies logic,” Waxman said. That’s because many renters are downsizing from non-Class A buildings -- older industrial facilities located in poor markets and elsewhere -- in favor of smaller spaces in more modern Class A buildings which are commanding higher rents. Many of the newer buildings are in the south and western areas of the region.

“They may be vacating 200,000 square feet of several older buildings and moving into one, more efficient building further south or where buildings are less expensive, so they’re absorbing 150,000 of new Class A building but leaving 200,000 square feet of older, industrial product on the market,” he said. “That’s why 100 percent of that negative absorption was in B and C buildings and positive absorption was all within Class A.

Companies traditionally in Linden, Elizabeth, and Edison are saying, “I don’t need to be there,” and decamping for cheaper rents in areas like Hamilton, Somerset, and Parsippany, according to Waxman. “That’s one of the reasons why you’ll see Class A continue to be strong,” he said, with more efficient buildings and a flight to quality continuing.

The ability to build new buildings in New Jersey, however, is becoming much more difficult. “A lot of towns are saying we have enough, we don’t want more warehouses," Waxman said. “Demand is falling so builders are waiting and not going to spec a building."

Bernstein thinks the slowdown in buildings is a good thing. Before COVID, he said most developers wanted nothing to do with warehouses.

“In the old days, when you built a strip mall, you had some idea what kind of clientele you were seeking,” Bernstein said. Now, when an applicant is asked what sort of warehouse they will build, they won’t commit, despite 13 categories to choose from. The answer typically is: “It won’t be a fulfillment center.” This lack of detail leaves town officials in the dark about potential impacts and has led to increasing resistance to the facilities.

If developers adequately planned ahead they could explain the pros and cons of the category of facility that they were seeking. But that is not occurring.

“You can’t get what seemingly is a reasonable answer," Bernstein said.

The presentations and a complete recording of the FIC meeting are available here.

Vulnerable User Database Tool Now Available

Posted: 2/21/2024 1:31:37 PM

A new online tool available from the NJTPA  will give municipalities and other agencies access to detailed travel data for hundreds of locations, helping them conduct feasibility studies for projects to improve safety and address traffic problems.

The Vulnerable User (VU) and Vehicle Traffic Counts Viewer is an online database of traffic counts collected by the NJTPA available for public access.

Aimee Jefferson, Principal Planner, Safety Programs in Local Project Development, at the NJTPA, provided a demonstration of the new tool during the Regional Transportation Advisory Committee’s Feb. 13 meeting.

The focus is on vulnerable users, like pedestrians, cyclists, and micromobility users, though many vehicle-focused counts are also available, according to Jefferson. The viewer primarily has been used to conduct Level Of Service (LOS) evaluations for Local Safety Programs and other highway safety and manual analysis.

Municipalities and other agencies can use it where high counts would help determine whether facilities are feasible, such as:

  • Road diet feasibility studies
  • Traffic signal warrant analysis
  • Bike lanes and improved crosswalks

The database is one of the recommendations from a two-year effort by NJTPA in 2020 to collect traffic counts with a focus on collecting pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility counts, as well as vehicular counts, and developing count standards and recommendations.

In New Jersey, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) also publish traffic count data, Jefferson said. DVRPC only collects counts for its region and DOT's online database only has vehicular counts.

The VU tool currently has more than 400 locations and three data types with bicycle, pedestrian, micromobility and vehicular volumes. Data includes counts collected during NJTPA projects as well as any counts subregional partners have shared with NJTPA. “As count data becomes more robust, more detailed modeling and forecasting of bike, pedestrian, and micromobility volumes may also be available and possible,” she said. New locations are added on a rolling basis.

A table function allows users to export datasets and a glossary breaks down technical language and provides sources of the data and potential use cases.

Study Search Tool Aids Transportation and Project Planning

Posted: 1/16/2024 3:11:12 PM

The NJTPA has released an update of PRIME, its searchable online library of planning studies and their findings and recommendations. The tool is available for use by the NJTPA’s county and city member agencies and by other partner agencies.

The system provides a means for planners and engineers embarking on studies of transportation issues or project needs to identify previous work within their study area or topic. This includes data and findings related to specific mobility, safety, reliability, sustainability, equity and other issues. 

Access to the searchable library will streamline the study process, ensure a more complete understanding of local and regional needs and help create better projects targeting those needs.

The updated PRIME system includes simplified data entry, streamlined user and administration interfaces, more powerful search and reporting features, and an updated programming platform to provide improved system performance.

The NJTPA is working with its partners and member agencies to enter additional regional and sub-regional studies into the system. The NJTPA plans to form an expert user group, prioritize studies for adding to the system, and provide ongoing training and support.

For more information contact Jeffrey Vernick at [email protected]  or go to the NJTPA website PRIME.

State Development Plan being updated with extensive public outreach

Posted: 1/10/2024 2:21:12 PM

The State Development and Redevelopment Plan, a framework to guide future land use development and conservation, will get its first update in a generation, with public outreach efforts already underway.

Donna Rendeiro, executive director of the New Jersey Office of Planning, provided an update on the state plan to the NJTPA Board of Trustees during a presentation at its January 8 reorganization meeting.

She said the State Planning Commission seeks to balance the often competing goals of other state agencies, such as, the Economic Development Authority, Department of Environmental Protection, and Department of Transportation.

The plan, last updated in 2001, will add two goals focused on equity and climate change, for a total of 10. Rendeiro said they have an aggressive goal to complete the plan by the end of this year with implementation slated for 2025.

Donna Rendeiro at the podium during a presentation to the NJTPA Board of Trustees“Our initial indication is that most of the building permits have been issued in areas where the state plan encourages growth and most conservation has been happening where the state plan envisions conservation,” Rendeiro said. “It’s not perfect, it’s not 100 percent, but we do think that the plan is making a difference.”

Critical to the process of updating the plan is stakeholder engagement, according to Rendeiro, with rules requiring 27 public meetings. Once a preliminary plan is issued, hearings in each of the state’s 21 counties are required over 45 days. A final draft plan, after a cross acceptance phase that includes negotiations, requires six more public hearings. The state's engagement hub for outreach is available at publicinput.com/njstateplan.

Rendeiro said the Office of Planning already held eight stakeholder sessions last year, engaging services of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association to assist with community outreach.

Map of New Jersey with state development and redevelopment plan iconsCounties play an integral role as the State Planning Act anticipates the counties negotiating on behalf of municipalities. “We want to work very, very closely with our county partners and our regional partners,” Rendeiro said, having already met with 18 counties both formally and informally.

“We can’t force municipalities to comply with the goals of the state plan, nor can we force counties or state agencies,” Rendeiro said. Instead, they aim to collaborate and provide guidance.

A video recording of the presentation is available here.

Photo By Ed Murray