Working for Smart Growth:
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2019 Complete Streets Summit

October 15th, 2019 by Kandyce Perry

Panelists at Complete StreetsEvery two years, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers hold the Complete Streets Summit to advance strategies to make our streets safer and more accessible to everyone. 

A key theme of this year’s event was equity. Keynote speaker Ryan Russo, director of transportation at the Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT), described it this way: “When we talk about equity in transportation, it’s about reversing the decisions made by the predecessors of our profession, and being honest about some of those practices.” These practices included using eminent domain to take properties in black and brown neighborhoods for highway construction, concentrating poverty and segregating communities. 

Focusing on underserved areas, OakDOT developed the Paint the Town program, which allows community members to paint temporary street murals reflecting the community’s cultures and values on Oakland’s roads. These projects engage community members to create something beautiful and meaningful, but they also provide something that might not be expected: safety. Road art is shown to slow traffic, making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Efforts like the Paint the Town program are a strong model for creative ways to implement complete streets.

Screenshot of NJDOT Complete and Green Streets Model PolicyEquity was also a major focus of the morning plenary session, where panelists announced NJDOT’s new model complete and green streets policy and guide, a one-stop resource for New Jersey municipalities, counties, agencies, organizations, and advocates. It makes the connection between complete streets and health, economic development, green streets, and equitable transportation expenditures and project selection. 

Kandyce Perry, planning and policy manager at New Jersey Future, explained during the plenary that the model policy and guide has sample language to implement benchmarks, which track where and what kind of street upgrades are prioritized: “This illuminates whether the communities of greatest need actually receive complete streets upgrades and provides the data to support just decision-making to achieve equitable transportation outcomes.”

Complete and green street: A street for cars, people, and water

Complete streets programs are successful when decision-makers and advocates can communicate with strong and plain language about the importance of transportation equity and safety, said Vinn White, senior transportation advisor to Governor Murphy. The model policy and guide provides that language. “The model policy was developed from a ground-up approach from a coalition of advocates in partnership with NJDOT” to increase the likelihood that these principles make it from policy to implementation, said Vinn.

Our streets are crucial networks that can make or break the health and vitality of our communities. Courtney Nelson of the American Heart Association closed out the plenary best: “The road to a healthier future is a healthy road.”

Local Implementation Planning in Ridgewood Village Will Help Create Great Places to Age in New Jersey

October 14th, 2019 by Tanya Rohrbach

Tanya Rohrbach presentingIn light of an aging baby boomer population, towns across the country and state need to consider how to meet the needs of growing numbers of people over the age of 55. Aging-friendly communities are those that enable older adults to remain active, healthy, engaged, and capable of continuing to live in their communities. The built environment and land use patterns of a community are major determinants of livability factors like housing, mobility, and proximity to destinations and daily tasks. Because local decisions affect access to affordable or suitable housing, community services or employment, opportunities for social inclusion and physical activity, and transportation, New Jersey Future is engaging with municipal leaders and community members to implement community design for all ages in their towns.

As part of a two-phase program funded by The Henry & Marilyn Taub Foundation to create great places to age, New Jersey Future recently facilitated an implementation workshop in collaboration with aging-friendly coordinators from Westwood Borough, Teaneck Township, and Ridgewood Village. The leadership of Ridgewood Village has formed a steering committee to prioritize recommendations of the Aging-Friendly Land Use Analysis conducted by New Jersey Future. Going forward, the committee will work with New Jersey Future to develop an implementation plan. The workshop was the initial step in the implementation planning process and served to generate an enthusiastic discussion between Village stakeholders and decision-makers about what steps to take to ensure their community is a great place to grow up and grow old.

Trenton Holds its First Ciclovia

October 14th, 2019 by Kandyce Perry

Kids bikingDo you have memories of riding your bike or playing basketball in the street as a kid? Well, that is exactly what kids, and adults alike, had the opportunity to do during Trenton’s first Ciclovia last month. 

“Ciclovia” (pronounced “seek – low – VEE – uh”) means bikeway in Spanish. Ciclovias or Open Streets Festivals are programs that temporarily open streets to people and close them to cars. Pedestrian traffic replaces car traffic and the streets become ‘paved parks’, where people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can come out and improve their health. Ciclovia is a movement that originated in Bogota, Colombia back in the 1970s, but has been adopted by many cities in the United States including New Jersey (New Brunswick won a Complete Streets Excellence Award for its Ciclovia this year).

This time, it was Trenton’s turn

Ciclovia booth with people talking

A coalition of partners led by Tri-State Transportation Campaign planned the festival to encourage biking and walking and reclaim the streets for people. New Jersey Future participated in the planning effort as the convener of the city’s Green Team, one of the many partners that helped make the event happen. 

Other cities can do this too. But why? 

In Trenton, nearly 1 in 2 children ages 3-18 years are overweight or obese. Furthermore, Trenton children between ages 3-5 have an obesity rate that is more than twice the national average. 

Too often, most of our day-to-day routine of traveling to and from work or school is spent behind the wheel of a car. Add on preparing for work or school the next day and cooking dinner, and there is often not much time left to get active and moving. If there is time, maybe you do not live close enough to a park or gym. Maybe the walk or bike ride to the park or gym is unsafe. 

Man on tall bike

By removing the car from the equation for the day, Ciclovia provides an opportunity for neighbors to (re)connect, have fun, and talk about ways their streets can become important public health solutions.

Complete streets, roadways designed for all people that prevent flooding through green infrastructure, allow our streets to double as safe places for people to exercise, recreate, or consider alternative methods of travel. An increased culture of biking and walking can have a positive impact on businesses as well by providing their customers additional (and healthier) options for reaching their destinations.

Trenton has taken the first step to make this a reality. Will your town be next?

Watch a video about Trenton’s Ciclovia below.

Three Lessons for Reinventing the Suburbs

October 11th, 2019 by Peter Kasabach

Houses in the suburbsNew Jersey Future’s executive director Peter Kasabach joined three other experts (Peter Reinhart, director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University and New Jersey Future board chair; Bret Morgan, co-founder of Cowerks; and Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development) at the Governor’s Conference on Housing and Economic Development Reinventing the Suburbs panel to unpack the top issues facing our suburbs, how we got to where we are today, and the obstacles these places confront as they look to reinvent themselves.  The panel took place on September 17 in Atlantic City.

Here were the top takeaways:

Tougher road for auto-centric suburbs. There are two types of suburbs: traditional town centers and auto-dependent. Traditional town centers, with a downtown, transit station, or Main Street will have an easier time creating walkable, compact, mixed-use centers that are growing in demand for both younger and older populations, while auto-dependent suburbs will have to work harder, be more creative and bolder. Both types of towns have enormous opportunities to use redevelopment as a tool for moving in the right direction.

Embrace change. While towns look to reinvent themselves, they will need to look to new change-makers and create a welcoming space for change to happen. Be flexible, try new ideas, bend standard operating procedures, and always look for opportunities to say “yes” when new ideas are presented that can make your town more walkable, compact, mixed-use and economically vibrant. Antiquated zoning that limits the mix of uses, multi-family housing, and taller buildings should be changed, since this can be one of the biggest obstacles for good redevelopment.

Leadership matters. In every case study the panel presented, the new, exciting project or program would not have happened if local leadership did not support it. Sometimes good local leadership means sticking your neck out and taking a risk, but it can also mean aligning government processes to help initiatives move forward in a timely way or sometimes even having government step back and get out of the way.

Where are the lead service lines in New Jersey?

October 3rd, 2019 by Gary Brune

New Jersey, along with states across the country, is confronting a public health threat: lead in drinking water. The primary source is lead service lines (LSLs), hose-sized pipes containing some amount of lead that connect water mains under the streets to buildings. But which communities are most at risk?

As of August, 2019, lead service lines have been found in 104 water systems, potentially exposing some portion of over 5 million residents who live in these service areas. Lead may also be present in pipes and plumbing in older homes, schools and other buildings. Some water utilities treat drinking water with corrosion control chemicals to minimize the leaching of lead from pipes and plumbing.

New Jersey Future mapped data that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collected from community water systems to show the intensity of LSLs across the state. Most LSLs were installed before 1940, so older communities are more likely to have higher concentrations of the pipes.

 

If the map indicates the presence of LSLs in your community, you can contact your water utility to request more detailed information on water test results, and if available, the location of lead service lines. Your water utility can tell you if protective actions, such as installing an in-home filter or flushing your pipes, are recommended. You can also speak with them about how to determine if you have a lead service line and/or lead in indoor plumbing or fixtures. Community results are also available on DEP’s Drinking Water Watch website.

The information in DEP’s LSL inventory is dynamic, as inventory records are often updated based on ongoing field operations. The data used for this map was current as of August 15, 2019 and was gathered from the utilities’ lead and copper sampling plans and a survey issued by DEP. Some of the 104 water systems with LSLs provided verified locations of the pipes while others provided estimates based on records. Many systems that reported the presence of LSLs will likely find more, as there are another 150 water systems that either are not in a position to make an estimate or have submitted an inventory that has not yet been evaluated by DEP. Part of the LSLs are typically under the authority of the utility (the portion from the street to the curb) while the other portion is located on private property. The number of LSLs located beneath private property may be significantly underreported in the survey results to date. As a point of reference, the American Water Works Association estimates there are 350,000 LSLs in New Jersey, while DEP’s survey to date captures only 161,000.

A task force convened by Jersey Water Works, a collaborative of diverse organizations focused on transforming New Jersey’s inadequate water infrastructure and of which New Jersey Future is a member, will soon be releasing a report of recommendations for the state to virtually eliminate lead in drinking water in 10 years.

Explanation of Map Legend

Estimated Percent of Households with Lead Service Lines in Water Utility Service Area
Different intensities of LSL concentrations appear as different shades of red and pink on the map. They were calculated by dividing the known or estimated number of LSLs in the water utility service area by the estimated number of households. The estimated number of households was used instead of the total number of properties because LSLs are rarely found at commercial properties, though it is possible that some of the LSLs on this map serve small commercial buildings.

Zero Lead Service Lines Reported
329 water systems reported no lead service lines. (Those areas appear as blue space on the map.)

Under Review
This map segment reflects the 150 water systems that either are not in a position to make an estimate (i.e., often due to poor or incomplete inventory records) or that submitted an inventory that has not yet been evaluated by DEP. (Those areas are colored purple on the map.)

Well Water
Approximately 10% of the state population is served by private well water, which is not part of any water system reporting. (Those areas are colored white on the map.)

Methodology Used to Prepare the “Estimated Intensity of Lead Service Lines in NJ”

The estimated percent of housing units in a water service area having lead service lines is the ratio of the estimated number of LSLs in that water service area (from DEP) to the total number of housing units in the water service area. Counts of total housing units are available at the census tract level from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Earlier analysis by researchers at Rutgers University produced estimated population counts for water utility service areas. The counts were produced for GIS polygons by intersecting the GIS layers for census tracts, water service areas, and sewer service areas, allowing for the creation of a factor that indicates the population of a given GIS intersection polygon as a percent of the total population of its host census tract. Total housing unit counts for water service areas are constructed by summing the estimated housing unit counts for all GIS polygons contained in the water service area. The polygon estimates were then constructed using housing unit counts at the census tract level from the American Community Survey.

The table with estimated percent of housing units having a lead service line per water utility was joined in a GIS layer with water utility boundaries based on a unique identifier present in both tables. The map of lead service line estimates per utility was manually classified into 6 interval classes based on natural breaks in the data distribution. Water utility boundaries show GIS data as of 2017 for public community water purveyor service areas, as acquired from the DEP Open Data website on August 20, 2019.

Fight flooding and pollution with the updated Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit

September 5th, 2019 by Kandyce Perry

Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit logo and cover imageHave you seen the award-winning Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit?

The Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit is perfect for community leaders who want to manage stormwater sustainably, reduce localized flooding, and improve water quality. When NJDEP adopts stormwater rule amendments later this year that require the use of green infrastructure, the Toolkit will be an especially valuable resource to New Jersey cities and towns.

The Toolkit is a one-stop online resource that helps communities implement successful green infrastructure projects. It’s full of information about planning, implementing, and sustaining green infrastructure to manage stormwater — and it contains direct links to Sustainable Jersey’s green infrastructure actions, which can earn up to 20 points each. 

Here’s what’s new:

New Complete and Green Streets Model Policy and Guide

With support and input from New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works Green Infrastructure Committee, and many other partners (see page ii), the New Jersey Department of Transportation just released Complete and Green Streets for All: Model Complete Streets Policy and Guide, which provides guidance for municipalities, counties, and transportation agencies to create effective complete streets policies that are safe for all users. We are especially excited that the inclusion of green infrastructure means roads can act as stormwater management assets, instead of simply channeling stormwater into existing gray infrastructure systems. The model policy also includes language for addressing health, economic development, and equity, and it provides strengthened implementation mechanisms. Read more.

New Resources

Additional Green Street Resources:

Stormwater Utilities

In March 2019, New Jersey joined more than 40 other states in allowing local and regional government entities to establish stormwater utilities. Like energy and water utilities, a stormwater utility provides stormwater management services to its customers  for a fee, which is used to maintain and improve public stormwater management systems, including green infrastructure. This is an important new option for jurisdictions in New Jersey that struggle with storm-related flooding and polluted runoff. To learn more about stormwater utilities in New Jersey, please visit New Jersey Future’s stormwater utilities resource page.

For Planners and Local Decision-Makers

For Engineers and Other Design Professionals:  

General

Find all these resources and more on the Toolkit’s Resources page.
Do you know a resource we should include? Email us  (jmcbrideatnjfuturedotorg)  !

 

Stormwater Camp 2019

Stormwater Camp was filled with field trips and hands-on activities designed to help campers in grades 5-7 understand the connection between rainfall, runoff, the rivers and lakes they love, the wildlife that surrounds them, and the water flowing into and out of their homes. Read more.

 

Upcoming events

Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit in the News

The Toolkit was developed in consultation with the Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit Advisory Committee, a group of more than 20 municipal leaders and experts. It is a product of New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program, which aims to move green stormwater infrastructure practices into the mainstream.

Would you like more green infrastructure updates in the future? Sign up for our mailing list.

Share the Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit on social media! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn (@newjerseyfuture). Use these hashtags: #NJGIToolkit #MainstreamingGI #greeninfrastructure #stormwater

Green infrastructure resource wins national award

September 3rd, 2019 by New Jersey Future staff

Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit logo and tagline: from stormwater to clean water

New Jersey Future’s Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit has been honored with an Excellence in Communications Award from the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA). This award celebrates outstanding communications projects that inform the public about flood awareness, pollution prevention, and environmental protection. 

The Toolkit, which debuted in November 2018, is a one-stop resource for communities that are interested in managing stormwater runoff in a more effective and sustainable way by using green infrastructure. Rather than routing rain into traditional “gray” pipes, most green infrastructure allows rainfall and snowmelt to soak into the ground, filtering out pollutants, recharging groundwater supplies, and protecting against floods. Some green infrastructure practices such as cisterns and wet ponds capture rainwater for irrigation or other beneficial uses. Green infrastructure has become increasingly prominent as a stormwater management tool. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection soon will require the use of green infrastructure in new development to meet the state’s standards for water quality, groundwater recharge, and volume control. 

“Local leaders are keenly interested in clean water, clean air, attractive streetscapes, and in general doing all they can to create and sustain a high quality of life in their communities,” said Louise Wilson, New Jersey Future’s director of green infrastructure. “Green infrastructure contributes to all of those goals, and in this era of climate change, it’s one of the most effective ways to make downtowns and neighborhoods a bit cooler, less flood-prone, and more appealing places to live, work, and spend leisure time.”

“With the rule change that’s coming later this year, green stormwater infrastructure won’t be just a good way for towns to ‘go green’ and supplement traditional gray infrastructure,” Wilson noted. “Green infrastructure becomes the required first choice. The Toolkit helps municipalities know how to do what they will have to do. We’re proud of it. And we’re delighted to have worked with such a talented team of municipal advisors and consultants to pull it all together.”

“The Toolkit was developed because New Jersey Future’s initial green infrastructure grant specified that we work with towns in designated geographic areas,” said Kandyce Perry, planning and policy manager at New Jersey Future. “In the course of that work, we amassed a wide array of green infrastructure resources and best practices and wanted to share those resources statewide. Developing the Toolkit made those resources available to everyone, at no cost.”

The Toolkit offers practical advice and resources for local elected officials, planning and zoning board members, environmental commissions, and anyone else involved in the design and implementation of municipal projects. It provides information on how to plan, implement, and sustain green infrastructure. It also includes videos highlighting success stories and case studies. For municipalities involved in the Sustainable Jersey program, it links to green infrastructure actions that are eligible for certification points. 

“I have found the planning and ordinance text examples in the plan section of the website to be particularly helpful and have incorporated some of this language in redevelopment plans for several municipalities,” reflected Kendra Lelie, senior associate at Clarke Caton Hintz, the lead consultant who developed the Toolkit. “I also appreciate the guidance about site-specific assessment, which is useful for both professionals and volunteers. These and other Toolkit resources show you how to think differently about stormwater management.”

Picture of Kandyce Perry and Louise Wilson

Kandyce Perry and Louise Wilson

New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program staff, Louise Wilson and Kandyce Perry, developed the Toolkit in consultation with the Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit Advisory Committee, a group of more than 20 municipal leaders and experts. The Toolkit was assembled and designed by a professional team of consultants, including Clarke Caton Hintz; Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program; Princeton Hydro; BRS, Inc.; and FZ Creative. 

While the Toolkit was developed with New Jersey in mind, most of it can be used by any community in any state. It creates a replicable model for helping municipalities establish green infrastructure nationwide.

Stormwater Camp? Yes please!

August 26th, 2019 by Louise Wilson

5th through 7th grade students from Hampton and Newton work with the SCMUA-WRWMG to make observations about the differences between the McKeown School rain garden installed in 2016 and the Halsted Middle School rain garden installed in 2019.

Touring a sewage treatment plant might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think “summer camp fun.” Stormwater campers at Marian E. McKeown Elementary School thought it was pretty cool, though. They built water filters, got their hands dirty in rain gardens, built a section of permeable sidewalk, and watched with fascination as construction workers began to install porous asphalt in the school parking lot.

McKeown School students construct a multi-layer water filter to simulate how rain gardens help to filter pollution out of stormwater runoff.

Stormwater Camp, coordinated by Wallkill River Watershed Management Group and funded by New Jersey Future, is filled with field trips and hands-on activities designed to help campers understand the connection between rainfall, runoff, the rivers and lakes they love, the wildlife that surrounds them, and the water flowing into and out of their homes.  Fourteen students (grades 5 – 7) participated in this six-day camp, alternating between the school grounds, the neighboring Town of Newton, nearby fields and woods, and ultimately the top of Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest. Although the planned excursion onto Lake Hopatcong had to be canceled due to the widely-publicized harmful algal bloom, the lake’s troubles presented an important teachable moment. And the hole in the curriculum was quickly plugged with other outdoor experiences designed to entertain and further enlighten.

McKeown School Stormwater Campers play a game to learn about the movement of a droplet of water through the water cycle.

The McKeown School in Hampton Township, Sussex County, has become a showcase for green infrastructure practices that capture stormwater onsite and protect the fragile Paulinskill floodplain located right across the street. One of the largest rain gardens in the state collects runoff from the school’s roof and adjacent pavement, and its parking lot was repaired this summer using permeable pavement to solve a runoff problem that led to unsightly scouring and polluted runoff elsewhere.  The school district, school board, and McKeown School teachers have led by example, and in so doing have helped students and their families become more aware of what each of us can do to protect and conserve our most precious resource.

 

McKeown students, Joey and Brenna, display their homemade water filters that were constructed using water bottles, coffee filters, cotton balls, charcoal, sand, gauze, and gravel.

Could you launch a stormwater program at your local school or camp?  Take a look at the curriculum and think of ways it might be adapted to your community and your watershed.

To the school leaders and teachers, especially to Nathaniel Sajdak and Kristine Rogers from the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (Sussex County MUA), whose seed of an idea has borne such rich fruit, we say, “Thank you! Job well done.” 

Time for public input on sewer solutions

August 19th, 2019 by Emily Eckart

Twenty-one cities in New Jersey face ongoing problems caused by their outdated combined sewer systems. The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) wants public input on proposed solutions. The deadline to submit comments is September 1, 2019. 

“Now is the time for the community members to make their voices heard by submitting comments to the NJDEP and participating in local and regional stakeholder meetings,” said Nicole Miller, a member of Newark DIG (Doing Infrastructure Green). “The next few months are critical for the residents and business owners who will be impacted by these plans and who will ultimately pay for them.”

Combined sewer systems were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are found in New Jersey’s older cities, including Paterson, Camden, and Hoboken. These systems handle stormwater runoff and sewage with the same set of pipes. When it rains heavily, high volumes of runoff overwhelm the system and it overflows, discharging runoff and raw sewage into nearby waterways, streets, and sometimes even basements.

Diagram of how combined sewers work in dry and wet weather

Diagram of how combined sewers work in dry and wet weather. Credit: EPA.

What represented state-of-the-art technology a century ago is no longer a viable stormwater and sanitation solution. By discharging untreated sewage into the open, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are a threat to public health, as well as a detriment to economic development and quality of life. And the problem is only getting worse. Rainfall is increasing due to climate change. Meanwhile, dense development in New Jersey has covered vast areas with asphalt and concrete, preventing stormwater from soaking into the ground. Both trends result in larger volumes of runoff, meaning more frequent and severe CSOs. 

To address this problem, NJDEP required municipalities and utilities with combined sewers to submit reports evaluating potential long-term solutions. These Evaluation of Alternatives reports were completed on July 1, 2019, and they are posted online for public review and comment. The deadline to submit comments on the reports is September 1, 2019. 

It’s important for the public to participate now. Long-term plans for combined sewers will be finalized on July 1, 2020. The proposed solutions in Evaluation of Alternatives reports vary widely, including everything from green infrastructure to water conservation and sewer separation. These solutions differ in both appearance and potential cost.

“Communities will be investing billions of dollars to stop sewage from overflowing into waterways and backing up onto streets and into basements,” said Kim Gaddy, Newark resident and environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action. “The question is, what will this investment look like and how will it benefit our communities?”

Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers logo

Visit SewageFreeNJ.org to learn more.

Both Miller and Gaddy are advisory board members of Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers, a statewide campaign supported by New Jersey Future that works to increase public engagement with CSO solutions. Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers posts regular updates on NJDEP’s process, informs community members about upcoming meetings, and provides information about CSOs, including tips on how to review Evaluation of Alternatives reports.

Community members can read the Evaluation of Alternatives reports on NJDEP’s website and submit comments to NJDEP’s CSO team leaders.

Build streets for everyone with this new model policy

August 13th, 2019 by Emily Eckart

Many streets act as barriers. Cars speed through multiple lanes, endangering pedestrians and bicyclists. Wide expanses of asphalt — often with inadequate sidewalks — mar downtowns and discourage foot traffic. Paved roads prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground, resulting in stormwater runoff that pollutes waterways.

But we can design our landscape differently. Streets can act as all-purpose corridors — not just for cars, but also for people, public transit, and green stormwater management. Known as “complete and green streets,” this design ideal has achieved greater recognition with a new resource from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). NJDOT’s model complete and green streets policy and guide provides practical guidance for municipalities, counties, and agencies to improve roads and the overall landscape.

A traditional street designed for cars

Traditional street design: a street for cars. Photo credit: NACTO, NYC DOT

Complete street with bike lanes and sidewalks

Complete street: A street for cars and people. Photo credit: NACTO, NYC DOT

Complete and green street: A street for cars, people, and water

Complete and green street: A street for cars, people, and water. Photo credit: NACTO, NYC DOT

Complete streets are designed with the safety, mobility, and accessibility of all users in mind. That includes children, older adults, pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, public transit passengers, and drivers. This differs significantly from earlier road design, which prioritized cars alone.


Diagram of a complete street

Diagram of a complete street. Photo credit: AARP


Complete and green streets represent a further step in the evolution of more beneficial roads. These streets incorporate green infrastructure like tree trenches and curb bump-outs to manage stormwater, reducing stormwater runoff and creating an attractive landscape.

More than 100 of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities have adopted complete streets policies, demonstrating widespread interest in this new design paradigm. However, many of these policies have not resulted in the actual creation of complete and green streets, as they sometimes lack mechanisms for implementation. 

Municipalities throughout New Jersey have created green streets. View examples here. Are there others we left out? Email us  (jmcbrideatnjfuturedotorg)   your green street projects!

 

NJDOT’s model policy and guide will change that. It provides guidance for all roadway jurisdictions to create complete and green streets according to current best practices. It makes the connection between complete streets and health, economic development, equity, and green streets. It also contains sample language for communities to amend existing complete street policies or adopt new ones. 

Kandyce Perry Headshot

Kandyce Perry

“New Jersey has more individual complete street policies than any other state, but there are opportunities to increase the effectiveness of these policies so they actually create safer streets for all users and do not simply sit on a shelf,” said Kandyce Perry, planning and policy manager at New Jersey Future, who participated in a collaborative effort to help NJDOT develop the new model policy. “In addition to green streets, the new model policy provides a mechanism for tracking where and how investments are spent so that complete streets are delivered equitably to neighborhoods and users with the most need. The new guidance also recommends that jurisdictions create an advisory body to ensure the model policy’s best practices are at the forefront of all decisions. I’m very thankful to the Department and their leadership in making this model policy a priority, and to the many partners I had the pleasure of working with to help draft the document.”

A working group composed of nonprofits, advocates, and government organizations (view the full list below) spent two years assembling information and recommendations that shaped the policy. Kandyce brought extensive knowledge of green infrastructure and green streets to the group, representing New Jersey Future and coordinating reviews with the Jersey Water Works Green Infrastructure Committee.


Curb Bumpout with plants

Green infrastructure captures stormwater and allows it to filter into the ground, reducing flooding and pollution. It differs from “gray” infrastructure, the traditional system of routing stormwater into drains and pipes that empty into waterways. Green infrastructure can take many different forms, such as rain gardens, permeable pavements, and curb bump-outs. This curb bump-out captures rainwater and slows traffic, serving both as stormwater management and a pedestrian safety feature. Photo taken by Jennifer Duckworth, Millburn Environmental Commission.


“As Mayor of Scotch Plains, it is a priority of mine to establish policies, like complete streets, that support the overall health of our residents,” said Al Smith. “Our complete streets policy promotes healthy lifestyles, increased social connectivity, and a sense of community belonging, which are all instrumental in supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of our residents. As our downtown residential and business community grow, it is important that the design of our streets, walkways, and bike paths incorporate these Complete Street principles. I recommend all mayors adopt the most current Complete Streets policies to improve and strengthen the connectivity of their communities.”  

Effective street design can prevent flooding, reduce the urban heat island effect, raise the value of homes and businesses, increase foot traffic, and make people safer. Besides environmental dividends, well-designed streets result in social benefits. NJDOT’s model policy prioritizes health, equity, and economic development important facets of completing a street. With numerous benefits, complete and green streets represent a significant step toward creating more sustainable landscapes. 


Members of the New Jersey Complete Streets Working Group

Policy & Guide Team

AARP-NJ – India Hayes Larrier and Brian McGuire
American Heart Association – NJ Chapter – Courtney Nelson
Greater Mercer TMA – Jerry Foster
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia – John Boyle
New Jersey Future and Jersey Water Works – Kandyce Perry
RideWise TMA, Inc. – Linda Rapacki
Sustainable Jersey – Anne Heasly and Linda Weber
Tri-State Transportation Campaign – Janna Chernetz and Sonia Azczesna
Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers University – Leigh Ann Von Hagen

Members and Participants

Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension, Water Resources Program, Rutgers University – Christopher Obropta, Ph.D.
Cross County Connection TMA – Jason Simmons
NJ Conservation Foundation – Julia Raskin and Olivia Glenn
NJ Department of Community Affairs – Jef Buehler
NJ Department of Transportation – Elise Bremer-Nei
NJ Bike and Walk Coalition – Cyndi Steiner
NJ Healthy Community Network – Janet Heroux
Passaic County – Mike Lysicatos
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy – Elizabeth Sewell
West Windsor Council – Allison Miller


For more information about green infrastructure, view New Jersey Future’s Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit and Developers’ Green Infrastructure Guide.

© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

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