Hurricane Sandy’s devastation provided important and painful lessons about actions that must be taken to ensure the region’s transportation infrastructure is resilient in the face of future extreme weather, NJTPA Chairman and Hunterdon County Freeholder Matthew Holt said at the NJTPA’s first Board meeting since the storm.
In opening remarks at the Nov. 19 Board of Trustees meeting, Holt noted that past studies used models to simulate the potential impacts of storm events on the transportation network. Now, research efforts must pivot from models to the considerable volume of real-time data produced by Sandy and 2011’s Hurricane Irene, he said.
Hurricane Sandy showed the need to prepare bridges and roadways that can withstand the sorts of major storms that now appear to be more regular events, and build redundancy in the system so there are alternatives in the event that one transit line or crossing is taken out, he said. Paying for these upgrades will require a more robust long-term funding commitment by the federal government. This includes enhancing funding in the current national transportation law, known as MAP-21, Holt said.
“We’ve been handed a checklist for what needs our attention, and it is the responsibility of all of us here today to take advantage of the lessons learned from the events of the past few weeks,” Holt said. “We need to be investing in a transportation system that is resilient and ready to meet the demands of a growing economy. The time to start working toward this is now, not when MAP-21 expires in 2014.”
Above left: NJTPA Chairman and Hunterdon County Freeholder discusses Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the transportation network at the Nov. 19 Board meeting. Right, a fallen tree blocks the NJ TRANSIT tracks in Spring Lake.
With the presidential election over, Holt said he was optimistic there is a window of time right now for Congress to start some serious conversations on the state of the nation’s infrastructure and get work done on the issue.
Catastrophic preparedness has been a major focus of the NJTPA’s work in recent years. In 2012, the NJTPA and several partner agencies completed an FHWA grant-funded study of critical transportation assets that were vulnerable to the impacts of flooding and rising sea levels. Since 2010, the NJTPA has hosted symposiums on the coordination of emergency management and transportation, improving the resilience of our infrastructure, and adapting our transportation network to severe weather. In the year ahead, the NJTPA will begin work on a Resilience and Adaptation Plan for the six-county Passaic River Basin, a geographic area that was hit particularly hard by Irene.
NJTPA Executive Director Mary K. Murphy said discussions are being held to determine how the agency’s upcoming planning work could be revised to provide a greater emphasis on resilience, redundancy and related factors. She said the agency was eager to get input from county and city officials on how future studies and programs can address lessons learned from the storm. The hurricane may also prompt changes in project funding priorities and the addition of new projects to address storm impacts, she said.
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The NJTPA will soon launch an effort to update the strategic plan for deployment of technology in New Jersey that makes the transportation system work smarter and more efficiently.
NJTPA Chairman Matthew Holt announced the initiative at the annual symposium of ITS New Jersey (formerly known as the Committee for a Smart New Jersey), a coalition of public, private and academic sector representatives promoting accelerated deployment of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in New Jersey. ITS involves using technology to improve transportation through enhanced traveler information, traffic flow and more. Holt mentioned EZ-Pass, New Jersey’s 511 travel information system, and variable messaging signs on the highways as examples of ITS technologies that play an important role in people’s daily lives, often without them realizing it.
The plan will be the first comprehensive update of the state’s ITS strategy since 2005, Holt said. It will help determine what New Jersey’s transportation technology needs are, and impact long-term planning and capital investment decisions.
“Essentially, this is going to be a road map for the 21st century transportation system that every agency in New Jersey will use, with the ultimate goal of creating a system that rivals those found anywhere in the world,” Holt said.
An NJTPA-led effort will help determine how emerging transportation technologies can help improve travel throughout New Jersey.
More than 150 people attended the conference, dubbed “Connecting New Jersey: Accelerating ITS Deployment Opportunities,” held at Rutgers University on Dec. 14. Videos and slide presentations from the event are available at NJTPA.org.
Other featured speakers and panelists included Ronnie Hakim, Executive Director, New Jersey Turnpike Authority; Dennis Motiani, Executive Director, Transportation Systems Management, New Jersey Department of Transportation; Christopher Montgomery, Chief Technology Officer, NJ Transit, Ali Maher and Andy Kaplan, Rutgers University; Lazar Spasovic and Rongfang Liu, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Christopher King, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; David Liebgold, Director of Transportation, New Jersey Meadowlands Commission; Alain Kornhauser, Princeton University; Gregory Davis, Federal Highway Administration; Louis Neudorff, CH2M HILL; and Sai Yagnyamurthy, Verizon.
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The North Jersey Sustainable Communities Consortium now has a new name—Together North Jersey—and a tagline: “Connecting People, Places and Potential.”
Together North Jersey is currently working on a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development for the NJTPA region. The project, being funded by a $5 million federal grant, will explore how North Jersey’s transit system, educated workforce, strategic location and other assets could be used to position it for the greatest future economic growth. At the Nov. 19 NJTPA Board of Trustees meeting, Executive Director Mary K. Murphy noted that the NJTPA and the rest of the Together North Jersey consortium will also address the new challenges facing the state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Public outreach meetings for Together North Jersey will be held throughout the region beginning early in 2013. For more on the initiative, visit www.togethernorth-jersey.com.
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In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, representatives of New Jersey’s eight Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) plan to meet Jan. 22 with similar organizations in New York to begin developing a TMA response plan for use in future emergencies.
John Ciaffone, the President of the Trans-Options TMA, said the plan will help “firm up hard lines of communication” and enable TMAs to “continue what we do—and improve what we do—during emergencies,” when the timely, accurate distribution of information about commuting and travel options is especially important.
For example, Ciaffone said TMAs could use the plan to help set up temporary shuttles to get people to work. In addition, TMAs not affected by a storm or emergency could pitch in to help those in more heavily impacted areas. “We see our role, very much as a communicator and informed facilitator,” he said.
For more on the state’s TMAs, including contact information and a map showing the areas each organization serves, visit njtpa.org/Project/Mobility/TMA.
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NJTPA CHAIRMAN and Hunterdon County Freeholder Matthew Holt spoke on the need for federal transportation investment at the Newark Regional Business Partnership’s Nov. 19 “Transportation Symposium: Are We Investing in the Future?” NJ Transit Executive Director and NJTPA Board member James Weinstein delivered the keynote. Additional speakers included NJ Turnpike Authority Executive Director Ronnie Hakim and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chief Engineer Peter Zipf.
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A ribbon cutting was held Oct. 22 for Somerset County’s new DASH 853 shuttle, which is being funded in part by the NJTPA. The service will connect points in New Brunswick and North Brunswick in Middlesex County with employment centers and residential areas in Franklin Township, Somerset County. Pictured from left to right are NJTPA Board Secretary and Somerset County Freeholder Peter S. Palmer, Somerset County Freeholders Robert Zaborowski and Patrick Scaglione, and NJTPA Chairman and Hunterdon County Freeholder Matthew Holt.
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On Dec. 6, the NJTPA sponsored a half-day seminar entitled “Connecting Us: The Arterial Highway System of the New York-New Jersey Region,” conducted by planner and engineer Lee Goodman.
Goodman traced the development of the arterial road system in the New York-New Jersey region over the last century. While it serves massive and increasing volumes of traffic each day, Goodman pointed out that the system has many missing links and bottlenecks that hamper the movement of people and freight.
Drawing on over
40 years of experience in the transportation field, including many years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Goodman recounted how geography, politics, community opposition, and other factors shaped the system, including its flaws. He said Robert Moses, the “master builder” of the network, deserves both praise and criticism for his role.
Goodman’s presentation will become the basis of a video that will be made available on the NJTPA website.
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About 40 transportation professionals from throughout the region gathered at the NJTPA on Dec. 13 for a peer-learning workshop called “DO-IT: Developing Opportunities for Innovation in Transportation.” The event focused on ways the transportation sector could utilize communications technologies like apps, widgets, and open source software to improve travel and work performance.
A survey of participants found that the most common uses of communications technologies were for gaining travel information like transit alerts or traffic conditions and for wayfinding or trip planning. Participants suggested improvements were needed in public management of data and collection methods, among other areas.
Among the day’s presentations, Jen Strasser of Cambridge System-atics and Jeff Maki of Open Plans discussed a New York MTA app that uses on-board GPS technology and open source data to give riders real-time estimates on when buses will arrive. A second DO-IT workshop will be held in March. For more information, email email@example.com.
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The NJTPA Board approved two resolutions Nov. 19 that will help the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge project advance.
The first resolution approved the project’s Initial Financial Plan, a requirement for large-scale federal projects with total costs above $100 million.
The second resolution amended the NJTPA’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to pivot funding from other projects with adjusted schedules to the Route 72 project. The move positions the project to advance for federal authorization in February. Construction on the project is expected to begin this summer and continue until 2019.
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