Senate Bill On Track Toward Smart Growth
May 3rd, 2000 by Tim Evans
- New Jersey has more lane miles of highway per square mile than any other state except Rhode Island. (NJ has 10.5 and RI has 12.2, vs. a national average of 2.3). Each lane mile of road in New Jersey can expect to host 2.6 million cars each year, compared to a national average of 1.5 million.
- More roads don’t mean less congestion. The state’s worst traffic delays occur in Somerset, Bergen, Morris and Monmouth counties, where the typical driver annually loses 74 hours, 62 hours, 52.5 and 46 hours, respectively, to traffic jams. Yet all of these counties except Bergen have highway capacity above the statewide average.
Governor Whitman last week proclaimed sewers the new frontier in smart growth, and underscored her commitment to revitalizing New Jersey’s older communities by rescinding the Treasury Department’s move from Trenton. This week we may see smart growth leadership from the Legislature for the first time in many years on an equally important infrastructure item: roads and rail.
On Thursday, May 4 the Senate Transportation Committee will consider a bill by Senate President Donald DiFrancesco to reauthorize funding for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.
Senator DiFrancesco’s bill (S16) is significant for its language directing the Department of Transportation to implement its projects consistent with the goals of the State Plan. If approved or strengthened with pending amendments, this requirement would be a giant step forward in the use of the State Plan — one that could help revitalize New Jersey’s older communities by focusing transportation investments into improving existing roads, bridges and mass transit, in lieu of spending for new roads that will carry development further into New Jersey’s open spaces.
The State of Maryland has already taken its transportation program one step further, by defining specific, geographic “smart growth” locations that may qualify for its state transportation funds. While not as strong in tying state planning to state spending, Senator DiFrancesco’s bill is a step in the right direction toward smart growth.
B. Tim Evans, NJF Research Director