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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Advocates Linking New Jersey, Pennsylvania Trail Networks

Posted: 2/10/2020 3:42:42 PM

Elizabeth Sewell, Northeast Region Trail Development Manager for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, made the case for developing a bi-state network of trails linking Northern New Jersey with the Circuit Trails in the Philadelphia region during a presentation to the NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee's February meeting.
Rail-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that works with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails. They have planned and approved over 300 miles of trail in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the East Coast Greenway spanning from New York, through New Jersey, to Washington D.C. The group has set a goal of completing 500 more miles of trail by 2025.
Trails have public health, environmental and economic impacts, Sewell said, adding that the Delaware Valley portion of the East Coast Greenway generates $3 billion in benefits. New Jersey has estimated it brings in $840 million in tourism revenue to the state annually, she said.
“There’s a lot to leverage with these trails,” Sewell said.
Sewell’s proposal is to develop local and large-scale trail projects under what would be called the North Jersey Urban Trail Network and combine that with Circuit Trail efforts underway in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to create a massive network in both states. “This network consists of over 800 miles of planned trail that takes people from where they live to where they want to go,” she said.
New Jersey trails such as the Morris Canal Greenway and September 11th National Memorial Trail can be the catalyst to establishing a network of trails that can combat congestion, environmental damage, and connect the region for more efficient travel, she said.
Sewell wants to see the North Jersey Urban Trail Network included in the NJTPA’s next long-range plan and asked committee members to look for opportunities to connect future trail projects and develop regional connections.
For more information on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, visit railstotrails.org.

UpNext Young Adult Advisory Committee Explores Paterson

Posted: 1/28/2020 4:36:48 PM

Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett who serves as NJTPA First Vice-ChairJohn Bartlett, NJTPA First Vice Chair and Passaic County Freeholder.
The NJTPA’s pilot advisory committee for young adults, UpNext North Jersey, is off to a strong start.  After holding kickoff meetings at the NJTPA and in New Brunswick last fall, UpNext held its first subregion-based event at the Paterson Museum and the Great Falls in Passaic County on Jan. 25, 2010.
UpNext North Jersey was created to engage civic-minded young adults in the region’s transportation planning process. This new group was established in the Public Engagement Plan adopted by the NJTPA Board in 2018; it’s open to residents of the NJTPA region who are between 18 and 30 years old and has about two-dozen members.
Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett who serves as NJTPA First Vice-Chair  welcomed the group.  He noted that many transportation projects take years to plan and build and NJTPA’s current long range plan looks out to 2045.  “You will still be working in 2045,” he said, “so the kind of advance notice, if you will, that we get from having your voices in the room and participating in the dialog is incredibly important.”  Video of Bartlett's remarks are here.
The group learned about two NJTPA-funded studies underway, the Main Avenue Local Concept Development Study in the City of Passaic and the Paterson-Newark Transit Market Study. Members living and working in the area were encouraged to provide feedback for those studies. The group also provided general input on their transit use and technology and infrastructure improvements they’d like to see made in the future. This feedback will help inform the next long-range transportation plan.
Future events are planned for Asbury Park in March and Raritan Borough in early summer.  More information about UpNext North Jersey is available at www.njtpa.org/UpNext

Dean Hughes Foresees a Future of Economic and Demographic Disruptions

Posted: 1/21/2020 10:30:06 AM

As the nation emerges from a decade of strong economic growth — which could be called the “roaring 2010’s” — New Jersey will have to address a series of demographic and affordability challenges to keep pace with other states.  That is among the conclusions of the James W. Hughes, University Professor and Dean Emeritus of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who addressed the NJTPA board at its January 13 meeting.
His presentation, “The Decade of Transformation: Economic and Demographic Disruptions,” was one in a series of presentations and forums designed to gather insights for NJTPA’s update of its long range transportation plan, with a horizon year of 2050.

Click here to view video of the presentation
Hughes began by offering statistical snapshots of the state. New Jersey has the second highest income among the 48 continental states, but he noted, “Our strong income metric often obscures our severe cost and housing affordability problem.” The state’s housing costs are the highest in the nation. In terms of transportation, the state is second in mass transit usage and third in the length of commute.
At the same time New Jersey has the densest population per square mile for any state — even higher than Japan or India — while it also has more forest acreage than states such as California or Alaska.  The latter he said demonstrates “our unique environment and quality of life.”
Yet New Jersey’s job growth over the last decade of 11 percent trailed the 17 percent growth in the nation overall. He said it will likely continue to lag in coming years.
In addition to affordability and other issues, he said, the modest performance is tied to demographic shifts. In particular, the state — like the entire northeast U.S. — is losing population to states in the south and west.  International migration and birth rates have helped make up for the loss.
 “International migration has become our demographic engine,” he said. With 23 percent of the state population being foreign-born, immigration is a “benchmark of our unique demographic diversity and that’s a key advantage in a global economy,” Hughes said.
Other impending challenges, according to Hughes, relate to the generational transformation underway. The nation’s population is aging with more people over 65 than under 18 for the first time.  While the baby boom generation still holds more than half the nation’s wealth, the smaller Generation X is poised to take over vacated leadership positions and the giant millennial generation has become the largest segment of the labor force. Its growing family formation will reshape housing and other markets. Behind them are Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Each generation is more diverse than the last, owing to immigration, he said
“A new imperative is connecting across generations, promoting social and economic linkages between young and old,” Hughes said.
Despite these concerns, Hughes remains hopeful for the future, citing a steady New Jersey economy benefitting from the nation’s continued economic expansion.  But he cautions, “We may be approaching the point where the region may have to be remarketed or rebranded to compete in this new era of rolling disruptions and regional shifts.”

Morris County Freeholder Kathryn DeFillippo Elected NJTPA Chair

Posted: 1/13/2020 12:46:44 PM

Morris County Freeholder Kathryn DeFillippo elected NJTPA ChairMorris County Freeholder Kathryn A. DeFillippo was elected to a two-year term as Chair of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) at the Jan. 13 Board of Trustees meeting.
“I am honored that my fellow Board members have entrusted me to serve as chair of the NJTPA,” Freeholder DeFillippo said. “This is a critical time for transportation in North Jersey as we continue to make the case for new rail tunnels under the Hudson River and plan for emerging technologies that can improve mobility. I look forward to working with the Board, our many partners and NJTPA staff to improve transportation and quality of life for our region’s residents.”
The NJTPA oversees regional transportation planning and annually authorizes more than $1 billion in federal surface transportation funding for 13 counties in northern and central New Jersey.
Chairwoman DeFillippo also recognized outgoing chairman Angel Estrada, a Union County freeholder.
“Freeholder Estrada was a dedicated leader who helped this board accomplish many things during his term,” Chairwoman DeFillippo said. “He has been a strong advocate for enhancing equity, improving mobility and strengthening the economy. I thank him for his leadership and look forward to our continued work on the Board.”
Freeholder DeFillippo joined the NJTPA Board in 2014. She was first elected as a member of the Board’s Executive Committee in 2016, serving two years as Board Secretary. In 2018 she was appointed to a two-year term as Third Vice-Chair. She most recently served as Chair of the NJTPA’s Project Prioritization Committee and is a past Chair of the Freight Initiatives Committee.
Chairwoman DeFillippo was first elected to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2013. Prior to being elected freeholder, she was a councilwoman in Roxbury Township from 2006 to 2013, serving as mayor in 2009 and deputy mayor in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
She has a long history of public and community service. She is a past president of the Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce and retired in 2016 from the board of the NJ Metro Chapter of the National MS Society (NMSS) after serving as a trustee for 10 years. Still an active member of NMSS, she was a driving force in bringing the Walk MS to Roxbury in 2006 and continues to serve as a fundraiser for the event.
NJTPA Board of Trustees Executive Committee
At the meeting, the NJTPA Board also selected four other members of its Executive Committee. In addition to Freeholder DeFillippo, the elected members of the Executive Committee are: Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett, First Vice-Chair; Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Second Vice-Chair; and Warren County Freeholder Jason Sarnoski, Secretary. In accordance with the bylaws, Chairwoman DeFillippo appointed Middlesex County Freeholder Charles Kenny to the position of Third Vice-Chair.
The Executive Committee provides guidance and leadership to the full Board on a wide range of planning, policy and administrative issues. It meets as needed to review financial, personnel and policy matters. Board membership is an uncompensated position.

Students Help Conduct Safety Audit of Main Avenue, Passaic

Posted: 12/13/2019 2:16:42 PM

By Aimee Jefferson
On a clear, crisp November day, 30 students from the Passaic Academy for Science & Engineering set out on a road safety audit (RSA) to investigate how to improve Main Avenue, the City of Passaic’s downtown core. The students were led by the project team of the Main Avenue Local Concept Development (LCD) study as one of the outreach efforts to better understand how the corridor is used.

It was one of 38 RSAs conducted in northern New Jersey, and supported by the NJTPA, since 2010. Recognized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a proven safety countermeasure, RSAs bring together a wide range of engineering, planning, governmental and enforcement professionals — and sometimes students — to review the safety characteristics of a planned or existing road and brainstorm substantive design solutions to reduce crash severity.

In preparation for the audit and as one of their Data Analytics class assignments, the students reviewed the corridor’s pedestrian and bicycle crash data to identify recurring patterns, such as distracted drivers causing half the crashes.

The day of the audit, the project team (consisting of NJTPA, county, municipal and consultant staff) met with the students to talk about engineering solutions to improve road safety. The students’ perspectives were invaluable as many of them walk the corridor on their way to school. Their findings included observed maintenance needs, deteriorated sidewalks, vehicles parked too close to bus stops, empty tree pits, and pedestrians crossing mid-block from the parking median.

After the walk, the students returned to the school to share their ideas. They suggested converting the central parking median into plaza space for cultural events and vendors; adding more greenery to the corridor; providing bike lanes; and adding curb extensions at the intersections to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. One student team recommended improving bus stop conditions to make it feel safer and more convenient for passengers. The audits findings will be incorporated into the study’s final report, which will recommend a single preferred alternative for the future layout of Main Avenue.

Recommendations from other RSAs conducted in northern New Jersey have been incorporated into construction projects as part of the NJTPA’s Local Safety Program. For example, safety improvements to  Washington Avenue in Carlstadt in Bergen County, incorporated several recommendations from an RSA, including installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon, a crosswalk, additional sidewalks and a concrete median barrier, all of which were constructed in 2018  through the Local Safety Program.

The NJTPA and its partners view RSAs as a flexible, effective and fast way to generate practical recommendations that address data-driven and observed safety issues along selected roads. More information on RSA’s is available on NJTPA’s website.