NJ Team Action

Cheering the Team

A-C-T! (clap, clap, clap) I-0-N! (clap, clap, clap) I can’t help but launch into cheer when my team does well! Yes, the NJ “bike/ped” team players have picked it up and are going for the win. With some SAFETEA-LU funding still unobligated, new funding rules under MAP-21, and emergency recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy, the NJ Team huddled and called their plays. Here’s a rundown of some recent Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and Transportation Enhancements TEAM ACTION in NJ.

The Team

In this context, the NJ Team refers to the decision-makers, stakeholders and advocates who have an interest in awarding and obligating funding for Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and bicycle and pedestrian and projects. As part of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s State Network Project, an Award/Obligation Action Team was formed to encourage the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to fully staff, fund and implement bicycle and pedestrian projects in NJ. The team includes the National Partnership, NJ Bike and Walk Coalition, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New Jersey Future, AARP, Project for Public Spaces, as well as representatives from Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, NJ Department of Health, NJDOT, and the three NJ MPOs.

Calling the Play

As a result of collaborative teamwork and advocacy, NJDOT made the following commitments to funding in NJ:

  • When we asked to keep Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds at 2012 levels, NJDOT committed to keep funding levels consistent for Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trails and Transportation Enhancements. These programs have been combined into one program under MAP-21, the Transportation Alternatives Program.

  • When we asked to keep the 50% state apportionment available to the Transportation Alternatives Program, NJDOT committed to keep these funds in the TAP program. Under MAP-21, up to 50% of the state allocation, or $8.1 million, is eligible to be transferred to other non-walking/bicycling transportation projects. 

  • When we asked to award and announce the 2012 Safe Routes to Schools grants, NJDOT committed to announce the $5M Safe Routes to School grants (see below).

  • When we asked to initiate a 2013 round of Safe Routes to Schools grants, NJDOT committed to making this money available to local communities in the next grant cycle.

  • When we asked that NJDOT follow its Complete Streets policy when rebuilding hurricane-damaged roads, NJDOT committed to bringing storm-damaged roads up to the most current specifications.

Option Offense

In January, 2013, the governor announced a package of 35 grants through New Jersey’s Local Aid program totaling nearly $6.8 million to support local road and safety projects. The package includes ten state-funded grants totaling $1.1 million for emergency road repairs and 25 federally funded Safe Routes to School grants totaling $5.7 million for sidewalk, intersection, crosswalk and other improvements to help children remain safe as they walk or ride bicycles to and from school. The Safe Routes to School grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

But that’s not all. According to a NJDOT spokesperson, NJDOT is proactive and gives out $291 million in Local Aid to counties and municipalities across the state annually ($195 million in State funds and $96 million in federal). THAT'S HUGE. There are also Safe Streets to Transit and Local Bikeway programs funded with state money as well as a Pedestrian Safety Line Item (not Local Aid but administered through the Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs). 

On the federal side, NJDOT uses its $10 million in Transportation Enhancements (TE) funds on local projects. They also use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds to support the locals with planning, especially in bicycle and pedestrian planning. They have on-call consultants that have done Bicycle and/or Pedestrian Studies and Plans for 70 municipalities and 4 counties since 1997. They have funded the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center and the NJ Safe Routes to School Resource Center for several years, both of which provide not only research and training but technical assistance for the locals. 

They continue to implement their Complete Streets policy, including in the efforts to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.

What’s Next?

We’re going to Disney World! And after that, the NJ Team will work together to develop strategies for increasing its federal funding obligation rate and getting more bike/ped projects built. Some strategies include a training and/or certification program so applicants need less handholding through the federal process. Another would provide local technical assistance either via on-call consultants and/or TMA and MPO staff. The NJDOT and MPOs are collaborating on developing one grant solicitation and selection process.

Save the date! On Monday, March 18, 2013, Together North Jersey will hold a Health in All Policies (HIAP) workshop to introduce the concept of public health impacts in all policy areas including transportation, housing, environment, energy and economic development. The next day, on March 19, staff from the MPOs, NJDOT and select stakeholders will convene to lend their expertise in addressing health in New Jersey’s transportation sector at a Health in Transportation Planning Roundtable.  

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For more information, or to join the New Jersey network, please contact me.

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