NJTPA Update Blog

July 2018

Together North Jersey Workshop Focuses on Improving Pedestrian Safety

Posted: 7/17/2018 12:00:00 AM

From quick temporary changes to roads, to finding funding for more permanent improvements to running a public education campaign, the latest Together North Jersey Institute workshop covered the various ways communities can work to improve pedestrian safety.

The half-day workshop also touched on the ways crime can impact walking in low-income and minority communities and offered an overview of national movements aimed at reducing pedestrian fatalities.

Pam Shadel Fischer, a transportation safety consultant and former director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said the Vision Zero movement, Toward Zero Deaths initiatives and Road to Zero coalition may have slightly different approaches and timeframes but they’re all working toward the same overarching goal — reaching zero roadway fatalities.

But getting to that number will take work, she said, and it means getting people to change their own behaviors and encouraging others to follow their example.

“We can do this, but we have to recognize everybody has a right to the road, but with that right comes a responsibility,” she said.

Charles Brown, senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, said that communities need to examine crime data when they’re considering ways to improve pedestrian safety. He said people walk where they feel safest in terms of crime, but that route may not be the safest for pedestrian travel.

Bettina Zimny, Director of Planning at NV5, Inc., gave an overview of complete streets projects, which are roadways designed for all users. She said while it can be difficult to convince local officials of the need to invest in large projects, highlighting the many benefits is one way to get support.

“The economic value alone of improving places for walking is huge,” she said.

Leigh Ann Von Hagen, senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, gave an overview of different funding opportunities for pedestrian-related projects, including the Transportation Alternative Program, which can be used for trail projects, and Safe Routes to School grants, which can fund improvements to help students get to and from school safely. NJDOT is accepting applications for both programs through August 24.

Communities can also use Safe Routes to School Programs to educate students about safe walking and bicycling practices, said Lisa Lee, Manager of Bike and Pedestrian Programs at EZ Ride Transportation Management Association (TMA). The TMAs give students helmets, offer safe skills bike courses, conduct crosswalk demonstrations to show children how to safely cross the street and support Street Smart NJ, the NJTPA’s statewide pedestrian safety campaign.

Will Yarzab, the Street Smart NJ coordinator, explained to attendees how to participate in Street Smart NJ, from hosting a planning meeting, to attracting volunteers, conducting education and enforcement and evaluating a campaign’s effectiveness.

Laura Torchio, deputy director of transportation initiatives at Project for Public Spaces, and Barkha Patel, senior transportation planner for the City of Jersey City, both spoke about how implementing temporary projects can help lead to more permanent changes.

Torchio encouraged attendees to “test before you invest” to see if a proposed bike lane or curb extension works best for the street the community is trying to improve.

“If your community doesn’t like it, it’s easy to undo because you’re not moving curbs, you’re just using paint,” she said.

Jersey City did just that as part of its Jersey City Pedestrian Enhancement Plan, called JC Walks, part of the NJTPA’s Subregional Studies Program.

Patel said that by using temporary paint, planters and colorful tape, the city was able to demonstrate to the community what improvements to their neighborhoods could look like. Before the demonstration projects people told her that there was no way the concepts would work, but after seeing them they wanted the city to narrow the crossing distance for pedestrians and create more pedestrian seating, among other things.
[July 17, 2018]

New Jersey Infrastructure Bank Offering Transportation Loans

Posted: 7/11/2018 2:34:30 PM

Culvert replacements and bridge work are among the county and municipal projects now eligible for low interest loans through the New Jersey Transportation Infrastructure Bank or I-Bank.

The funding is available through a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and I-Bank  an independent state financing authority.

David Zimmer, Executive Director of the I-Bank, gave a presentation on the new transportation funding options during the NJTPA Board meeting July 9. 

Since 1985, he said, New Jersey has had an infrastructure bank to fund drinking and wastewater projects.  It has invested $7.2 billion in water projects, saving borrowers $2.4 billion in interest payments, Zimmer said.

In 2016, the same financing model was applied to transportation projects by creating the I-Bank.  With approval of the State Legislature, NJDOT’s Local Aid Infrastructure Fund allocated $22.6 million each year to I-Bank.  This funding has been further leveraged through bonding to provide $39 million each year in spending power for projects.  The I-bank currently has on hand nearly $80 for low interest loans.

The funding takes the form of short term loans of up to three years to cover design, engineering and construction.  Once the project is complete, the short term loan is converted into a long term loan over the useful life of the project (up to 31 years).  The loans are generally repaid through county or municipal budgets.

In addition to offering low interest rates (about 1.5 percent), Zimmer said the I-Bank also only charges interest on the money a municipality or county has borrowed as it is drawn down, rather than charging interest on the full loan amount when it is approved.

NJTPA Chairman Angel Estrada said the I-Bank was potentially very valuable, “presenting the opportunity for counties and municipalities to do projects on their own” without the complications and delays of depending directly on federal or state resources.

Visit the New Jersey Transportation Infrastructure Bank’s website to learn more.
[July 11, 2018]