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Panel Addresses Last-Mile Access For Freight Facilities

Posted: 11/28/2022 9:46:17 AM

There are many good jobs in the freight sector but attracting workers to them can be difficult as freight facilities often are not easily accessible via public transportation.

The Metropolitan Area Planning (MAP) Forum's Multi-State Freight Working Group hosted a virtual peer exchange workshop on Nov. 15 titled, “Effective Practices for Enhancing Last Mile Workforce Accessibility Options to Freight Facilities.” The panel included a representative from the private sector, a Transportation Management Association (TMA), and a community non-profit that provides a fee-for-service program.

It's not just a freight and transportation issue, David Behrend, Executive Director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), said. “It’s really an equity issue because a lot of these facilities may be located in traditionally underserved communities …and have the potential to really economically benefit those communities,” he said.

A lack of access to transit can potentially shut the door on a six-figure salary for people with a high school diploma, according to Axel Carrion, Vice President, State Government & Public Affairs, at UPS. He said he would not be a vice president today if almost 30 years ago he did not have access to transit in New York City to get his foot in the door at the company.

UPS is the fourth-largest largest private employer in New Jersey. The challenges with worker access, including access during overnight hours, Carrion said is “not a UPS issue by any means, it’s an industry issue.”

Della Walker, Jr., chief operating officer and executive vice president of programs at the non-profit Newark Alliance, explained how creating equitable transportation solutions can eliminate barriers to work. Transportation systems should be flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and workers, Walker said. “There’s not one solution that will fit everyone’s needs.”

The alliance has helped reduce commutes by assessing where people work, making sure schedules address their needs and encouraging companies to hire locally.

Serving warehouse districts with transit can be particularly difficult, according to Peter Bilton, Manager, Sustainable Transportation Planning, at the NJTPA. because they tend to be single-use districts with no residents, making transit “less cost efficient” than in more populous areas.

Common solutions include:

  • Vanpooling, in which a group of employees lease from a vendor and commute together, often with subsidies available to support it;
  • Van shuttles, provided by an employer or employment agency for home-to-work transport, which works best at workplaces with a large workforce and consistent shifts;
  • Carpooling, promoted by employers and supported by TMAs; and,
  • Shuttlebuses, specifically tailored to freight workplace needs, with a fixed or flexible route and schedule, funded by public-private partnerships.

The area around Allentown, Pennsylvania, is also facing difficult worker access issues. Owen O’Neil, executive director of Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) said that since 2016 the region has seen some 30 million square feet of logistics and warehouse space approved or constructed – with another 26 million in the approval process.

LANTA has 85 buses covering 324 square miles of service area but faces the demand for more service as development grows and spreads “We don’t have a whole lot of resources to cover all the things we have to do,” O’Neil said.

He noted that the newest employees at warehouses tend to be the most reliant on transit and get the worst shifts until they work their way up. It’s only after a year or two, when they are in steady situations, that they might buy a car or start carpooling, he added.

In the New Jersey Meadowlands area, the non-profit Meadowlands Transportation Brokerage Campaign, more commonly known as EZ Ride, helps businesses get their employees to work.

“Transportation can be a challenge, for people who cannot afford to drive to work, for older adults who don’t drive [and for] those with disabilities,” Krishna Murthy, president and CEO of EZ Ride, said. To provide affordable services, EZ Ride often develops public-private partnerships to fund operations.

Among the organization’s most vital programs is EZ Ride Shuttles. On a typical day pre-COVID, EZ Ride would transport about 2,000 people a day via 30 vehicles by 100 drivers. About one-third of shuttles operate at night, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., getting people to Newark Penn Station. Ridership is down about 20 percent since COVID began, with EZ Ride transporting about 400 people a day on average.

A complete recording of the meeting and presentations can be accessed here.

NJTPA Board Names David W. Behrend Executive Director

Posted: 11/14/2022 2:01:41 PM

NJTPA Executive Director David W. BehrendThe NJTPA Board of Trustees voted unanimously during its meeting Monday to name David W. Behrend the agency’s executive director.

Behrend most recently served as deputy executive director. He replaces Mary D. Ameen who retired in June.

“I want to congratulate you and thank you for your work as Acting Executive Director over the past four months,” NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, said after the vote. “Your experience leading the agency’s extraordinary staff and collaborating with our many partners will provide important continuity as we look to seize all the opportunities available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other initiatives.”

“I’d like to thank the NJTPA Board for entrusting me with this position and the great staff of the NJTPA for all their hard work over many years,” Behrend said. “This is an exciting time to be involved in the world of transportation planning and infrastructure, and I look forward to continuing the growth and improvement of the NJTPA.”

Behrend has been at the NJTPA for more than 20 years, serving in various roles. Prior to becoming deputy executive director, he was director of the Department of Communications and Government Affairs.

Prior to joining the NJTPA, Behrend was an editor and reporter for the Courier News, among other publications.

He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and a Lead New Jersey Fellow, Class of 2012.

NJ TRANSIT, NJTPA announce $43 million in federal funding

Posted: 11/9/2022 9:00:00 AM

NJ TRANSIT and the NJTPA today announced the programming of $43.6 million in federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding to seven NJ TRANSIT projects which advance sustainability, bus garage electrification and first/last mile transportation solutions.  The funding will be made available to NJ TRANSIT as part of NJTPA’s Fiscal Year 2022-2025 Transportation Improvement Program.
“By working together at a regional level, we can identify, prioritize and advance critical projects to make the transit system more accessible and sustainable,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.  “The projects selected are exciting opportunities to continue promoting the electrification of buses, using solar power in bus shelters and modernizing our bus network to meet future transportation demand.”
“Public transit is vital to communities across the state, with people depending on it to get to work, buy groceries, and go to the doctors,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “I’m proud to have secured this funding which will advance critical NJ TRANSIT projects, and create a safer, more accessible, greener, and more sustainable transportation network. I’ll continue fighting for robust transportation funding, as it plays a critical role in getting residents safely to their destination and keeping our economy moving forward.”
“This federal funding will help modernize our state’s transportation infrastructure, create a cleaner, healthier environment, and make mass transit more accessible for New Jersey commuters,” said Senator Cory Booker. “I look forward to seeing the benefits these projects bring to our state’s economy and public health.”
“Working with the Biden administration, congressional Democrats are investing in our nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, and trains. This $43.6 million in federal funding will help our region continue to play an essential role in America’s economy,” said U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., who helped approve this funding as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. “With this funding, our state will receive several upgrades to increase efficiency while strengthening environmental protections. I thank our partners at the NJTPA and NJ TRANSIT for their continued leadership and forward-thinking. These essential funds were made possible because Democrats have unified control of Congress and the White House and are still having a positive impact for New Jersey. This is tremendous news for our state and our region.”
“NJ TRANSIT and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority collaborated closely to select a slate of innovative, environmentally-friendly, and forward-looking projects to receive this vital federal funding,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “As a result, NJ TRANSIT will now advance seven key projects – improving service, first mile/last mile, and micro-mobility options for customers, while supporting New Jersey’s sustainability goals outlined in Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan.”
“The NJTPA staff worked closely with NJ TRANSIT to develop an innovative plan to use this funding that will not only benefit transit riders, but also our region,” said NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner. “The bus electrification, pilot shuttle program, bicycle sheds and studies will help us meet the goals in our long-range transportation plan, by improving air quality, making transportation more accessible, and encouraging healthy alternatives. This is a great example of how we can use federal funding to make a difference for residents and commuters.”
The seven projects included in the funding allotment include:

  • Hilton Bus Garage Electrification Project ($24.5M) – The Hilton Bus Garage electrification project is the next step in NJ TRANSIT’s progress to the transition to a fully zero emission bus fleet in accordance with state law.  Efforts to date at Newton Bus Garage in Camden County focused on the implementation of a limited number of battery electric buses via plug-in charger. The Hilton Bus Garage electrification project in Essex County will implement an overhead pantograph charging system that is both hands-free for increased safety and scalable for mass-charging use. This project will provide a standardized overhead gantry system that will support the chargers and the charging cabinet equipment. Once designed and tested, the intention is to use the refined system to provide simple and efficient charging infrastructure that can be quickly implemented in the majority of NJ TRANSIT’s bus garages. The CRRSAA funding proposed for this project will pay for the pantograph charging system and supporting charging equipment.
  • Microtransit Shuttle Pilot Routes ($7M) – NJ TRANSIT seeks to create two or more community shuttle services to provide first/last mile access to transit hubs, thereby extending the reach of transit to areas where traditional fixed route service may be infeasible or ineffective.  The CRRSSA funds will support a multi-year shuttle pilot program in the NJTPA region that would offer on-demand service using smaller, accessible minibuses or vans, and hailed by an app or other suitable means.  Pilot locations may include connecting residential areas of Monmouth County with the main Rt. 9 corridor, connecting two highly utilized bus corridors between Englewood and Teaneck in Bergen County or first/last mile solutions in the Port Newark/Newark Airport area.
  • Solar Bus Shelters – Retrofit and New Design Constructability & Pilot Implementation ($6M) – NJ TRANSIT is undertaking the design of a new, state of the art solar powered, low maintenance bus shelter.  The primary intentions are to improve safety by providing solar powered lighting, and to develop a practical but aesthetically pleasing shelter design.  NJ TRANSIT is proposing a multi-pronged approach, including retrofit of up to 10% of existing bus shelters in the NJTPA region with solar lighting where feasible, as well as design of a new shelter which would be implemented through a pilot project, and then incorporated into the existing bus shelter program.
  • Bike Sheds ($2M) – NJ TRANSIT is preparing an RFP to obtain a service provider to build, operate, and maintain bike “sheds” that can store multiple bicycles and scooters at rail and bus hubs.  The intended sheds funded by the CRRSSA grant would be durable, secure, and accessible to users 24/7 through an app or other convenient method.  These would encourage non-motorized first/last mile access to and from transit hubs in the NJTPA region. 
  • Electric Mini-Buses ($1.5M) – NJ TRANSIT operates minibuses in its Access Link complementary paratransit system and also purchases and distributes minibuses for use by county, municipal, and non-profit subrecipients of Federal Transit Administration Section 5310 and 5311 funds.  There is growing interest in deploying battery-electric powered minibuses for these services, however, there is currently a low level of experience and readiness to purchase and use these vehicles in daily service.  The CRRSSA funds would allow NJ TRANSIT to purchase up to five (5) battery electric minibuses and chargers to deploy in the NJTPA region as part of the Access Link fleet, potentially through a cooperative purchase with another state also pursuing battery electric minibuses.  These would become a “living laboratory” to demonstrate how to operate, maintain, and schedule paratransit service for NJ TRANSIT and its subrecipient partners. 
  • Local Electric Vehicle Minibus Transition Study and Technical Support ($1M) – Interest in transitioning to battery-electric minibuses by NJ TRANSIT’s Access Link paratransit system, and local and non-profit recipients is growing, and electrification of buses is a key regional greenhouse gas reduction strategy.  Small transportation providers face challenges transitioning to an electric vehicle (EV) fleet, including cost, procurement, charging facilities, maintenance and safety, driver training, and adjustment of routing and scheduling to meet the operational characteristics of EVs.  The CRRSSA grant will fund a study led by NJ TRANSIT, with consultant support as needed, to characterize the knowledge gaps in the transition to EV minibuses and provide technical assistance to subrecipients in the NJTPA region and Access Link looking to deploy electric minibuses. This study will also develop guidance for local and non-profit providers of transit service and support the state and local EV Infrastructure Deployment Plans. 
  • NewBus Hudson ($1M) – This bus network redesign project aims to better understand ridership trends and other barriers to mass transit usage in Hudson County. Study tactics include a market assessment of specific localities and potential customers to determine effectiveness and competitiveness of transit options; service evaluation, an analysis of strengths, deficiencies, gaps, and opportunities of the existing local bus network; and stakeholder and public involvement intended to develop a comprehensive Public Involvement Plan that identifies a range of outreach approaches targeting key internal and external stakeholders. Using the data collected, NJ TRANSIT will create service and capital plans, which are expected to include strategies and solutions for addressing a regional decline in bus ridership.

Projects in Lambertville, Asbury Awarded Technical Assistance

Posted: 11/8/2022 2:51:39 PM

The City of Lambertville in Hunterdon County will develop an augmented reality walking tour with a focus on climate change impacts and a strategic vision plan will be created for the Village of Asbury in Warren County through Together North Jersey’s Vibrant Places Program. The NJTPA funds the competitive technical assistance program, which is conducted in partnership with Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is also participating in the program this year, offering additional support, technical assistance, and guidance. 

City of Lambertville 

Lambertville’s virtual walking tour is called Flowing Together: Building Community Resilience at the Confluence of Collective Knowledge, Creativity, and Action. It will include location-specific visualizations to depict the impacts of climate change and flooding events in the city, from both historic and future-oriented perspectives. The tour’s content will range from photographic renderings and videos to interviews and other multimedia experiences available by smartphone, tablet, or computer. This creative project aims to raise awareness of local ecological connections and to activate community involvement in the process of resiliency planning. 

Village of Asbury 

The Musconetcong Watershed Association, in partnership with the local officials, is developing a strategic vision plan for the Village of Asbury, located in Warren County’s Franklin Township. The goal of the plan is to create a pedestrian-oriented atmosphere that will attract visitors and businesses while leveraging the watershed’s many historic, cultural, and natural assets. Community members will be engaged to help develop plan recommendations. 

For more information about the Vibrant Places Program, visit www.TogetherNorthJersey.com 

NJTPA Recruiting Community Members for Public Outreach Program

Posted: 10/27/2022 3:35:21 PM

A graphic recruiting outreach liaisons, showing images of people doing outreach at community events.

The NJTPA is recruiting community members to participate in its pilot Outreach Liaison Program, which launched last year. The deadline to apply is December 15.

Outreach liaisons serve as trusted advocates who help engage members of their communities in the NJTPA's projects and programs. Residents of the NJTPA's 13-county region are eligible to apply. Outreach liaisons work with the NJTPA to tailor the agency’s public outreach strategies to the specific needs of communities in the region.

The purpose of the Outreach Liaison Program is to increase diversity, inclusion and participation of underrepresented racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in the NJTPA’s transportation planning work. Potential activities could include attending community events on behalf of the NJTPA, distributing information about projects or public surveys, planning and hosting community conversations, or sharing information through social media and other online networks. Outreach liaisons have also provided translation services.

Outreach liaisons have helped engage the public in the creation of a regional Active Transportation Plan, which aims to establish a safe and functional regional network of pedestrian and bicycle facilities to better connect where people live to where they need to go

Ideal candidates are members of grassroots networks who are passionate about community involvement, particularly engaging traditionally underrepresented communities. Through this program, participants gain skills in networking, communication, event planning, meeting facilitation, and outreach and engagement techniques. More importantly, they provide the NJTPA with valuable insights for our projects and programs. Participants are paid a stipend for their time.

The NJTPA is developing the pilot Outreach Liaison Program with support from the Public Outreach and Engagement Team at the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. To learn more about the program or apply, visit njtpa.org/OutreachLiaisons.

Morris Canal Greenway Projects Approaching Major Milestones

Posted: 10/26/2022 10:18:49 AM

Work to create a continuous greenway along the former Morris Canal continues, with individual projects approaching major milestones.

Joe Macasek and Tim Roth of the Canal Society of New Jersey presented updates on various greenway projects during the Morris Canal Working Group meeting October 20. The NJTPA coordinates the working group.

"The key words are patience and perseverance,” Macasek said. “These projects are complicated and always take longer than you think.”

Work on the Lock Tenders House in Wharton is nearing completion, Macasek said. The Borough of Wharton held a ribbon cutting in August to celebrate the restoration of Lock 2 East and work on the house, which will serve as a museum.

Interior work in the Lock Tenders House progressed in October, with new floorboards, walls and windows. “This is a wonderful project reproducing a 200-year-old building with modern building codes and appropriate compromises to bring to fruition,” he said.

The lock has been reconstructed and there are plans to have a drop gate installed soon, which would enable the water level to be raised and lowered as it was when the canal was active, Macasek said.

Meanwhile, the Boonton Greenway Trail portion of the greenway could see the next significant milestones by next year. Macasek said the Town of Boonton plans to complete its trail in four phases and will connect the greenway with several local history sites and natural assets.

“We envision a greenway that has many branches and many stories,” he said.

Boonton is securing a contract for the Arch Bridge stabilization, with the goal of construction starting in the spring. Macasek said the railroad trestle, which is planned to be a public walkway, is in the engineering assessment phase. Acquisition of the railroad turntable on the other end of river is in negotiations with NJ TRANSIT. Stone arches that were part of the blast furnace complex will be saved and interpreted, he added.

Some of these projects, including the restoration work in Wharton, have been funded through the Transportation Alternatives Program, a competitive grant awarded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation in partnership with the NJTPA. Applications for the next round of funding are due November 3.

Sascha Frimpong, director of local project development at the NJTPA, gave an update on several other projects being funded through prior rounds of grant funding. This includes: 

  • Peckman Crossing in Little Falls, Passaic County: New pedestrian bridge to be constructed over the Peckman River, with a path leading to bridge on either side that ties into existing Greenway trail, $1.47 million. 

  • Jersey City Morris Canal Greenway, Hudson County: Five of 14 canal segments to be funded, $5.2 million. 

  • The Pompton Feeder, Passaic County: This project, which is in the design phase, would create an additional eight miles of primarily off-road trails along the former Pompton Feeder of the canal, using almost six miles of NJ District Water Supply Commissions right of way, $3 million. 

  • Trail construction, Warren County: This project, which is in the design phase, will include seven greenway segments, $1.6 million. 

  • Waterloo Village Restoration Project, Sussex County: This project, which is in the design phase, will restore three Morris Canal-related historic buildings, Seymor R. Smith House, Waterloo Hotel, and Tenant House, $3 million. 

Hackensack River Greenway

In addition to the Morris Canal Greenway updates, Sam Schroeder, a principal planner with Hudson County, gave an overview of plans to create the Hackensack River Greenway, which is also being coordinated through a working group. Hudson County adopted the Hackensack River Greenway Plan in February.

The greenway in its current state is a series of segments that have been developed by municipalities or the county. The working group is identifying key connections to create a continuous greenway from Bayonne through Jersey City and Secaucus and into North Bergen.

“We envision public access along the entirety of the waterfront,” Schroeder said, adding the new greenway would connect to others in the area, including the Hudson-Essex Greenway and the Morris Canal Greenway.

Smart Technology Pilot Aims to Improve Safety in New Brunswick

Posted: 10/21/2022 12:03:40 PM

Portions of two state highways in New Brunswick are being equipped with technology that will collect data and help researchers improve safety and test out an autonomous shuttle.

Rutgers University — in partnership with Middlesex County, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the City of New Brunswick, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority — is deploying the technology as part of the DataCity Smart Mobility Testing Ground along portions of Route 27 and Route 18, a network of 14 sensors along a 2.4-mile corridor through downtown New Brunswick.

“The idea there is to make our transportation system safer and more efficient,” said Peter Jin, an associate professor at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT). He gave a presentation on the project during the joint meeting of the Planning and Economic Development and Project Prioritization committees October 17.

The social cost of replacing personal vehicles with self-driving ones remains too high to be practical, Jin said. Cities instead are exploring driverless shared-ride shuttles, including New Brunswick, which is working with Verizon’s autonomous shuttle program. He explained that the testing site would help make the infrastructure smarter, by using sensor technology similar to that used in driverless cars to determine where there are safety conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, for example. The roadside sensors can gather significantly more data than vehicle sensors, including the location of people, other vehicles and structures.

The first sensor was installed at Albany and George streets in September 2021. As of this summer there were five intersections, mostly along Route 27, equipped with the technology and by March 2023 the goal is to have 10 up and running with full data sharing and testing services. Jin said the Roadside Edge Living Lab is expected to launch in November. That technology can help pinpoint where there are near-misses, generating a map of where pedestrian and vehicle conflicts occur.

While “connected vehicle” technology under development communicates and sends alerts from sensor to vehicle, or vehicle to vehicle, Jin said the test site also connects to a smartphone app, which would enable road users who aren’t in a vehicle, like pedestrians to cyclists, to have access to it.

“Crashes are a very rare event, but near-miss conflicts happen almost every day,” Jin said. “We can use near-miss information to identify locations to improve traffic safety or deploy a safety alert system.”

Jin said the project is already gathering huge amounts of data. If the site relied only on sensors on a test vehicle, like Google’s self-driving car project Waymo, there would be far less data.

"We hope to use this [data] as a way to fill a critical industry data void,” he said, noting that more than 70 percent of data used to train self-driving models are generated from simulations.

Rutgers CAIT's testing ground is part of a collaboration led by Columbia University that was recently awarded a $26-million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a new Gen-4 NSF Engineering Research Center for Smart Streetscapes.

The research center’s mission is to employ roadside smart units and infrastructure as the basis to deploy the rapidly growing self-driving technology.

“If we can have full coverage of the entire corridor, we can essentially form our dataset and recreate this type of vehicle-based dataset for every single vehicle passing through the testing ground,” Jin said. 

Presentation Focuses on Strategies for Planning Warehouse Development

Posted: 10/20/2022 12:05:44 PM

New Jersey’s location in proximity to New York City and within a short drive of millions of consumers makes it a prime location for warehousing and logistics for an e-commerce industry that has boomed since the pandemic. Municipalities around the state, however, are grappling with where to put proposed distribution and fulfillment centers.

Donna Rendeiro, executive director of the New Jersey Office of Planning Advocacy, and Wilda Diaz, former mayor of Perth Amboy in Middlesex County, presented on the issue during the October 17 Freight Initiatives Committee meeting.

The state recently issued guidance to help municipalities determine how, or whether, to allow warehouses. Planning and zoning boards around the state have been inundated in recent years with applications to build giant warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers.

Freight-Initiatives-Committee-Smart-Growth-Areas-NJ-Map.png“The guidance we’ve put together does acknowledge the importance of the logistics industry," Rendeiro said, noting that warehousing and logistics accounts for about 12 percent of New Jersey’s employment – about one in eight jobs. “It really is critical to our economic sustainability. However, because the market is so robust right now, there’s a lot of pressure on the municipalities and we must make sure that this development is done by right sizing and right locating so that we don’t negatively impact our environmental resources and our infrastructure,” she said.

Warehouse developers have historically favored locations with access to the port but over the past decade that need and market desire has pushed development into farmland, according to Rendeiro, and that’s added to the stress of environmentally sensitive areas.

A number of municipalities and counties asked the state to help determine what their land use practices should be. “We don’t encourage [state] legislation because we do understand home rule; it’s a locally driven process but we think it’s important to provide this guidance," Rendeiro said.

The state’s guidelines encourage a proactive rather than reactive approach, providing municipalities factors to consider when developing or updating their master plan and ordinances. The guidelines also support a regional approach to siting warehouses, she said. “A proactive approach allows for municipalities to control their own destiny.”

Rendeiro pointed to the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law as an important tool in redeveloping brownfields, which are underutilized, and often contaminated, former industrial sites. She called it “a phenomenal law” that gives eligible municipalities the ability to work with a developer to negotiate off-site improvements that they might not otherwise be able to require.

Former industrial sites throughout Perth Amboy that once employed thousands left the city with a legacy of contamination that was unaddressed for many years. Diaz credited the city with having a vision early-on to address the sites by creating the Perth Amboy Redevelopment Agency (PARA) in 1997 – an agency she chaired -- and adopting a redevelopment plan.

Freight-Initiatives-Committee-Peth-Amboy-redevelopment.pngOne of the projects to come out of that plan is a Home Depot distribution center, which Diaz said has changed the community. The project invested $500 million for new construction and more than $10 million to remediate 92 acres of contaminated land at a former industrial site, opening a logistics center that created more than 500 jobs. In negotiations, the city was able to acquire open land and had a developer construct an amphitheater as well as major road repairs, infrastructure improvements and other enhancements.

More than 500 acres of contaminated sites in Perth Amboy have been remediated, which attracted and generated nearly $1 billion of new construction projects, implementing $25 million in infrastructure improvements, generating almost $15 million in tax ratables and more than 3,000 new jobs for local residents, Diaz said.

“At the end of the day, residents want to live and work in their community,” Diaz said adding that residents are happy to see the abandoned sites in use again. She said many people remembered “someone in their family who worked in those industrial sites, so we knew how important it has been for our community.”

goHunterdon Speed Monitoring Program Helps Municipalities Identify Problem Areas, Improve Safety

Posted: 10/14/2022 1:16:34 PM

If you’ve ever driven past an electronic sign that doesn’t always flash your speed in miles per hour (mph), don’t assume that it’s not collecting your data.

goHunterdon, the Transportation Management Association (TMA) for Hunterdon County, partners with municipalities that request to use its speed monitoring program and studies locations for a month – the first two weeks operate in “stealth” mode, followed by two weeks in “display” mode.

goHunterdon-speed-unit.png“It’s funny because we always talk about how many residents or people from town tell us that the sign isn’t working, it’s off. That’s what we’re looking for, we’re looking for stealth data,” Ryan Fisher, goHunterdon’s safety programs manager, said. Fisher and Executive Director Tara Shepherd briefed members of The NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) about the speed monitoring program during their October 12 meeting.

“Vehicle speed is one of the most important factors in crash severity,” Peter Bilton, Principal Planner, TMA & Mobility Programs, at NJTPA, said. “The risk of serious injury and death increases with increase in vehicle speeds and that’s why safe speeds is one of the five components of the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe Systems approach.”

In 2020, speeding deaths represented 29 percent of all traffic fatalities, up from 26 percent in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

goHunterdon started its speed monitoring program about 10 years ago as a loan program, in which municipalities could borrow a radar unit. It has since evolved into a more formalized program, with 73 studies conducted for municipalities, many of which asked for multiple studies, according to Shepherd.

Flemington-based goHunterdon is among four TMAs with speed study units. The others (Avenues in Motion, Greater Mercer TMA, and Ridewise) typically use their speed study programs to evaluate the effectiveness of the messaging of the StreetSmart NJ campaign, Shepherd said, adding that goHunterdon is the only TMA providing speed studies for municipalities.

goHunterdon-speed-report-peds-crossing-(1).pnggoHunterdon’s program was started based on feedback from partner municipalities that would get resident complaints or concerns about speeding on local roads. The program allows municipalities to collect objective data but also prioritize enforcement locations and times, Shepherd said. The signs, when displaying speeds, can also assist municipalities interested in a traffic-calming mechanism.

An online application for the program typically is completed by someone from the police department or the clerk or mayor. Once the municipality installs a metal post at the preferred location, goHunterdon will install one of two available signs, one an 11-inch display and the other 12 inches. The 20-pound unit runs $3,000 to $4,000 and includes a one-year cloud data subscription that costs $400 annually after the first year, Shepherd said. goHunterdon received a grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety to purchase the units and software.

goHunterdon-speed-report.pngStudies run for one month – the first two weeks in stealth mode, followed by two weeks in display mode. In stealth mode, the unit appears off but collects data and in display mode it will flash and show vehicle speeds. goHunterdon then generates a report that examines average speed and 85th percentile speed. “There isn’t always a problem,” Fisher said, citing an example of a study of a 25 mph zone that showed average speed of 15 mph and 85th percentile speed of 22 mph.

“Residents might feel that cars are speeding but this alleviates concerns from some residents,” Fisher said. When there is speeding, the data could suggest what time a patrol car should be in that location. The units also are used for vehicle counts, which can be helpful to local police when examining construction projects to see how a road is affected by traffic volume.

“Most of the communities that we were work with are looking at this in a comprehensive way and this is just another data point that they use in those conversations. We have provided speed study information to consultants that have prepared applications for different infrastructure funds,” Shepherd said. “We’ve done a lot of studies around schools and developing school traveling plans, things like that. Each municipality’s a little different how they use it but they’re all very appreciative of it.”

Gateway Critical To Region's Future

Posted: 9/19/2022 12:17:01 PM

Kolluri-Kris.pngBuilding two new Hudson River rail tunnels and rehabilitating the existing two tunnels will help meet the region’s needs “for the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years and 100 years – that's why this project is so important,” said Kris Kolluri, CEO of the Gateway Development Commission, during a presentation at the September 12 Board of Trustees meeting.

Kolluri noted that a report by the Regional Plan Association projects demand for the transit system on the Northeast Corridor is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in very short order.

While the cost of the project has gone up by an estimated $2 billion to $16.1 billion, Kolluri is hopeful the state and federal government can work together to bring the cost back down.

“The best way we can realize savings is to make sure there are no further delays to this project” Kolluri said. For every day that Gateway is delayed, he estimated the cost of the project rises $1.3 million to $1.5 million. New Jersey’s Congressional delegation recently sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging federal support for advancing the project.

Kolluri, who took the helm of the Gateway Development Commission in July, listed three reasons for the importance of the Gateway project:
  • It’s a regionally significant project, with the regional gross domestic product (GDP) contributing about 20 percent of the nation’s GDP on an annual basis.
  • It’s a huge mover of people through the region. “Without this system properly functioning, and able to function for the 21st Century, we will not be able to maintain our primacy as a region,” he said. 
  • It has the support of every elected official on both sides of the Hudson River and in Washington, D.C., and has been two decades in the making. “Everybody understands that this project is the fulcrum for the entire Northeast Corridor and without this project we’re not going to be able to maintain a viable rail network up and down the Northeast Corridor,” Kolluri said.
A self-proclaimed “big believer in plans, not just deadlines,” Kolluri said the next 60 to 90 days will be focused on staffing the Gateway Development Commission and getting it running; working with federal partners to develop a risk assessment profile to move ahead with engineering; and, then eventually enter into a full funding grant agreement sometime in late 2023 or early 2024 so construction can begin.

The day after his appearance before the NJTPA Board, the Commission voted to officially become sponsor of the Hudson Tunnel Project, with an $11-million budget and authority to apply for federal funding.

Gateway Program OverviewThe construction schedule for the new tubes and rehabilitation projects runs from about summer/fall 2024 to 2038. The plan is to build the two new tubes first, with completion estimated for 2035, then renovate the two existing tunnels one at a time. He said that is the most efficient and cost-effective plan and the commission is working closely with NJ TRANSIT and the Port Authority to keep to that schedule and possibly shave off some time.

Stephen Sigmund, Chief of Public Outreach for the Gateway Development Commission, told the Board that following that plan would ensure there are always three tubes in and out of New York City, and once the project is completed, four tubes.

“There will be never fewer than two, and that’s the most important thing,” he said. Three-quarters of volume into and out of Manhattan would be slashed if the number of tunnels were cut from two to one, impacting $16 billion in economic activity and $22 billion in property values and $20 billion in taxes in New York and New Jersey. “When you talk about the costs of this, the costs of not doing it are much higher than doing this,” he said.

NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, thanked Kolluri for the update and said the Board looks forward to seeing the project advance. “Getting this work done sooner than later is going to be to everyone’s benefit, economically as well as practically,” Bartlett said.