Working for Smart Growth:
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DOT’s Municipal Aid: Look Beneath the (Re)Surface for Innovative Uses

August 17th, 2018 by Missy Rebovich

Municipal Aid application deadline is October 8.

Rendering of an upgraded Washington Street in Hoboken, including planned green infrastructure.

Dear municipalities,

Some of you are leaving money on the table.

The NJDOT’s Division of Local Aid and Economic Development has $115 million to offer municipalities through its Municipal Aid program to support a wide variety of local infrastructure projects. And while the program is often thought of as a resource for road preservation projects such as resurfacing or reconstruction, it can fund a wide array of improvements. Some municipalities may not have thought to envision what they could use the money for, so here are some ideas.

Got a major road feeding into your town that you want to turn into a traffic-calming gateway? That’s eligible. Got sidewalks in your downtown in need of repair that you want to make more accommodating for shoppers? That’s eligible. Want to add a bike lane so local residents can run some of their errands without needing to drive? You can do that. Want to install things like curb bump-outs with bio-swales, or rain gardens in a right-of-way, to help control chronic flooding and brighten up the neighborhood? That’s a perfect project for Municipal Aid.

Eligible projects fall within one of seven categories: bikeways, bridge preservation, mobility, pedestrian safety, quality of life, roadway preservation, or roadway safety. This means that municipalities that wish to enhance pedestrian and bike safety, manage rainfall, or reduce congestion can all turn to Municipal Aid for funding.

It takes a little time and familiarity with the process to apply, but the Division of Local Aid and Economic Development has four district offices available to answer questions about project eligibility and the application process. The deadline for applications is Oct. 8, 2018, so interested municipalities are encouraged to begin their applications soon.

Are the Suburbs Back? Depends On How You Define ‘Suburb’

August 13th, 2018 by Tim Evans

Hackensack: City or suburb? Graphic: DMR Architects

Starting around 2008, demographers, economists, and urban planners started noticing something – long-dormant cities, towns, and older suburbs that pre-dated the automobile era began gaining population again, many for the first time in decades. New Jersey Future commented on this nascent trend as early as 2009 (“Suburbs Still Growing … But So Are The Cities”; “Cities Show Signs of Reversing Trend, Gaining Population”), observing that “several demographic trends may be converging and conspiring to dampen suburban sprawl while fueling the rebirth of cities and older, close-in suburbs.” The proximate cause for the reversal of previous patterns was the Great Recession of 2008, which, combined with $4/gallon gas prices at the time, seemed as if it may have been prompting people to reevaluate their residential locational decisions. Perhaps people were finally questioning the wisdom of the “drive ‘til you qualify” strategy of home buying, wherein one purchases a home of a desired size on a desired budget by looking far enough out on the suburban perimeter to find low enough home prices, and trading the lower home price for a longer drive to work and other regional destinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Combined Sewer Permit Holders Meet Report Deadline

July 25th, 2018 by Moriah Kinberg

NJDEP has posted all required reports on its website, and is inviting public comment

Sailboats near a combined-sewer outfall in Perth Amboy.

New Jersey municipalities with combined sewer systems just got a little closer to reducing the amount of raw sewage being dumped into our waterways. July 1, 2018, marked the end of the first three years of the combined sewer overflow (CSO) permits that were issued to 21 municipalities and four utilities by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). All of the permit holders met the state-mandated deadline for providing reports on the status of their efforts to comply with requirements to address their CSO systems. These reports include: Read the rest of this entry »

Eleven Great One Water Ideas From the Jersey Water Works Membership Meeting

July 24th, 2018 by Elaine Clisham

One Water: the idea that all water, regardless of source or use, has value and should be managed as one cycle looking across economic, social, and ecosystem needs to deliver multiple benefits.

A rain garden at work, holding and infiltrating rainwater after it runs off the pavement, so it doesn’t wind up in the sewer system.

This was the topic of discussion at Jersey Water Works’ July 19 annual membership meeting. Led by longtime Jersey Water Works member Chris Daggett of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, participants went through an exercise at their tables that asked them to talk about a project, either current or upcoming, that exemplified the concept of One Water. What we learned was that there are an enormous variety of projects that exemplify the One Water concept here in the Garden State. Here are several that stood out: Read the rest of this entry »

New Report Highlights Green Infrastructure Financing Opportunities

July 19th, 2018 by Chris Sturm

The New Jersey Water Bank provides very favorable financing for green infrastructure related to CSO abatement projects. So why is gaining access to this financing sometimes a challenge?

Green infrastructure at Phoenix Park in Camden.
Photo credit: Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority.

New Jersey Future’s new analysis, A Review of New Jersey Water Bank Financing for Green Infrastructure Projects, addresses this question. The report emphasizes the importance of the state’s green infrastructure financing program, particularly for communities with combined sewer systems; describes program accomplishments including green infrastructure projects that took advantage of the Water Bank’s favorable financing and terms; reviews best practices for potential applicants to access financing more successfully; and looks at what the Water Bank is planning to do going forward to make applying for green infrastructure financing even easier. Read the rest of this entry »

DOT Offers Help in Applying for Federal Transportation Grants

May 31st, 2018 by New Jersey Future staff

Safe Routes to School, Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Funds Available

The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Local Aid and Economic Development office is offering 45-minute sessions with representatives of local agencies to help with the federal grant application process. These one-on-one meetings will take place with NJDOT district staff and Metropolitan Planning Organization representatives, with the goal of strengthening Safe Routes to School and Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside grant applications.

Safe Routes to School grants are available for infrastructure projects that encourage and enable students in grades K thru 8 to walk and bike safely to school. Additional information about Safe Routes to School funding, including grant handbooks, screen shots, FAQs and estimates of improvement costs, is available from the the DOT’s website. Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside grants are community-based, non-traditional projects (both land and water) which expand transportation choice, strengthen the economy, improve the quality of life and protect the environment.  Additional information and resources regarding these grants are also available on the DOT’s website.

One-on-one meetings will be held from June 11 to 29. Applicants interested in scheduling a meeting should contact the representative from their local DOT district office. These meetings are not mandatory, but they are strongly encouraged to help develop and submit a strong application.

The March Toward Walkable Urbanism Continues

May 25th, 2018 by Tim Evans

State population continues to grow, but slowly

An initial analysis of the Census municipal population estimates released recently confirms that the trend back to walkable urbanism is continuing. An analysis of municipal population changes from 2016 to 2017 against New Jersey Future’s three “smart-growth metrics” — net activity density, presence of a mixed-use “center,” and local street network density — show that as a group, the 124 municipalities that score well on all three metrics grew faster than did the state overall, growing by 0.5 percent compared to 0.3 percent for the state.

These municipalities have accounted for 61.5 percent of statewide population growth from 2008 to 2017, after having accounted for only 6.1 percent of growth from 2000 to 2008. In contrast, municipalities not scoring well on any of the metrics saw their share of growth decline from 38.8 percent for the 2000-2008 period to just 11.9 percent for 2008-2017.

The renewed interest in these places is being fueled by the Millennial generation, who, based on New Jersey Future’s demographic analysis last year, evidenced a pronounced preference for compact, walkable places. As Millennials have entered young adulthood and moved out on their own, they have gravitated toward the state’s cities, smaller downtowns, and older, walkable suburbs.

The preference for access to rail transit has also strengthened in recent decades. The 138 municipalities hosting rail transit stations made up 60.8 percent of total statewide population growth between 2008 and 2017, compared to only 14.9 percent between 2000 and 2008. By contrast, municipalities without rail transit service grew by just 2.3 percent from 2008 to 2017, and by 5.4 percent from 2000 to 2008. (This growth around transit underscores the need for New Jersey to make significant investments in transit-oriented development. A bill, A3654/S2333, that would require NJ Transit to establish an office of transit-oriented development, is a good first step.)

Much of this growth has been happening as redevelopment in already-built places. The 270 municipalities that were at least 90 percent built-out as of 2007 (meaning they had developed at least 90 percent of their total supply of developable land) accounted for 70.1 percent of statewide population growth from 2008 to 2017, compared to a mere 3.6 percent from 2000 to 2008. Redevelopment has become the new normal.

Many of the fastest-growing municipalities so far this decade (2010 to 2017) are places that actually lost population in at least one decade between 1970 and 2010, a period when suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment were at their peak, so the recent turnaround is a remarkable reversal of the broader post-WWII pattern of suburbanization. These revitalizing municipalities include (in descending order of population): Jersey City, Union City, Bayonne, Hoboken, West New York, Bloomfield, Kearny, Fort Lee, Garfield, Princeton, Rahway, Englewood, Cliffside Park, Cranford, Carteret, Lyndhurst, Elmwood Park, Harrison, South Orange, Clark, Weehawken, Fairview, Metuchen, New Providence, Woodland Park, Edgewater, East Rutherford, Wood-Ridge, Kenilworth, Raritan, Fanwood, Allendale, Northvale, and Englishtown. The challenge for these places is how to accommodate the new residents who are seeking the live-work-play environments they offer.

Green Infrastructure Draws Attention at Atlantic Builders Convention

May 16th, 2018 by Louise Wilson

The New Jersey Future/NJBA Green Neighborhood at the Atlantic Builders Convention

The partnership between New Jersey Future and the New Jersey Builders Association – the Developers’ Green Infrastructure Task Force – is nowhere more visible than at the annual Atlantic Builders Convention (ABC) in Atlantic City. This year’s ABC, April 10-12, provided ample evidence that the task force is having an impact. Its members have become enthusiastic, articulate ambassadors for green infrastructure, and more and more developers are actively interested in the broad benefits of designing their projects with GI; they see opportunity rather than risk.

With expanded, highly visible exhibit space; beefed-up educational materials and graphic displays; expert green infrastructure designers on hand providing information and guidance to a steady stream of visitors; “speed consulting” sessions with developers, and a well-attended workshop, New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program delivered a lot of information to convention-goers: developers, engineers, contractors, architects and landscape architects. Read the rest of this entry »

One Water Awards Nominations Open, Partnership Expands

May 3rd, 2018 by Brian Caycho

Nominations are open for the second annual New Jersey One Water Awards program, which recognizes integration in water projects and programs. Two additional organizations have become One Water sponsors this year. Together the sponsors represent over 9,000 members each of whom work to advance aspects of integrated water management. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Green Infrastructure Options for Your Project? These Tools Can Help.

May 1st, 2018 by New Jersey Future staff

This article was written by Elise Eggert-Crowe from Meliora Design, and is derived from a longer report commissioned by New Jersey Future and prepared by Meliora Design.


Many tools exist that can help both the technical and non-technical communities understand how green infrastructure practices fit into a development project. While these may not act as a substitute for full design, they can be powerful tools in the site planning process and capture many of the essential components of a site-level design that is required to implement stormwater management.

The following four tools demonstrate green infrastructure options for a development site, which can be especially useful in the planning stage of a project. Many of the tools have overlapping features, which are summarized in Table 1. While all tools provide an overview of the impact of development on stormwater infrastructure, each site is likely to present a unique list of challenges that requires in-depth analysis and expertise.

For those looking for a way to demonstrate green infrastructure options for a development site, consider the benefits of the following tools:

  1. National Green Values Calculator
    This tool was developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. It aligns with methodology used for many regulatory requirements and provides a quick way to compare pre-development and post-development conditions using both conventional and various green infrastructure improvements. Additionally, the tool displays construction costs, maintenance costs, and additional environmental benefits.  The National Green Values Calculator appears to be the most useful planning tool for developers, especially in the early project planning stages when decisions are made regarding green versus gray infrastructure.
  2. EPA National Stormwater Calculator
    The purpose of this tool, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is to inform the user about how a development project meets a stormwater retention target based on location-specific inputs. The tool is free to use and offers a range of low-impact development practices that the user can model by modifying basic design properties. The tool also offers construction and maintenance cost estimates, which can be useful in informing development design. The tool may be useful for early‐stage planning applications or conceptual‐level site development but is not likely to provide the technical specificity or flexibility that developers would need to implement green infrastructure.
  3. NYC Green Infrastructure Co-Benefits Calculator
    The Co-Benefits Calculator is a free tool developed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and allows the user to quantify and compare costs and co-benefits of common green infrastructure used in New York City. By altering some parameters, it may be useful outside of New York City. A few examples of co-benefits captured by the tool include increased property value, improved quality of life, carbon sequestration, and supported green jobs.
  4. Autocase
    This software was developed with the goal of optimizing lifecycle costs of a project. In focusing on a lifecycle cost analysis that incorporates not only economic but also social and environmental factors, Autocase presents a holistic approach which may help justify the costs of green infrastructure over traditional gray infrastructure. The software allows the user to input site-specific design information and pulls from compiled database information (e.g., Census information, meteorological data, etc.). This software also offers a concise way to communicate the many goals of green infrastructure techniques. The software appears to be helpful mostly to planners or community organizers, since it does not address specific regulatory requirements at the state, county, or municipal level that influence what developers build. Autocase pricing varies depending on license terms; most users pay $5,000 for an annual license.

Common features of green infrastructure tools

Feature / Tool

Autocase

EPA National Stormwater Calculator NYC Green Infrastructure Co-Benefits Calculator

National Green Values Calculator

Estimates Construction Costs

Estimates Maintenance Costs

Estimates Economic Costs/Benefits (Beyond Green Feature Installation)

Estimates Environmental Costs/Benefits

Estimates Social Costs/Benefits

Allows for User-Input Location

Contains Location-Specific Rainfall/Soil Data

Contains A Variety of GI Practices

Allows for Customization of GI Practices

Aligns with Regulatory Requirements

Free Tool

 

You can learn more about each of these tools from the author’s presentation during the “Green Stormwater Infrastructure Consulting: Chat with the Experts” seminar at the Atlantic Builders Convention on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

 

About the Author
As a water resources designer with Meliora Design, Elise Eggert-Crowe provides site design, stormwater management design, hydrologic modeling, and permitting services. She is passionate about providing sustainable and effective stormwater management solutions that are integrated cohesively into site design. Elise’s professional experiences include land development plan preparation with a civil engineering firm and stormwater permitting with the City of Philadelphia. 

About Meliora Design
An award-winning engineering firm founded in 2007, Meliora Design specializes in civil, structural, and water resources engineering with a focus on sustainable site design and water resources management. Meliora values an integrated design process to reach creative and cost-effective solutions. Meliora Design is a registered Woman’s Business Enterprise (WBE) in New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia.  

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