Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


New Jersey Future Statement on Divided By Design Report

TRENTON, July 12, 2023—Smart Growth America has released a new report, Divided by Design, with dramatic implications for communities throughout the country divided by highways and public infrastructure, and in particular for these places in NJ, the densest state in the nation. With NJ’s heavily built environment, and historic cities established before the advent of 20th century freeways and tollways, our state is unfortunately home to too many communities that have been wrongly divided by highway construction and suffer today from poor planning, increased pollution, and unsafe streets.

Smart Growth America’s Divided by Design Report is structured with a Part I “[examining] the damage and inequities that were deliberately created by and in the federal transportation program from ~1950 onward. To help quantify and visualize that damage, Part I concludes by studying an unbuilt and built highway segment each within two cities (Atlanta and DC) to quantify what was lost, who bore the brunt of the damage, and what could have been lost today with the highways that were never built.” Part II “examines our current circumstances, demonstrating how the programs, standards, models, and measures that constitute our current transportation program exacerbate inequities—whether intentional or not.” Finally, Part III “outlines concrete steps we can take to fundamentally reorient the program around unwinding those inequities.” These recommended steps are as follows:

  1. State DOTs should measure access to everyday needs.
  2. Quantification of all of the negative impacts of transportation investments.
  3. A fuller and more current picture of traffic deaths in America by increasing the speed and demographic details of such statistical reporting.
  4. These measures must be used to design our transportation projects and determine funding priorities.
  5. Transportation agencies should measure the difference between their system’s overall performance and the performance for vulnerable communities specifically.

“It is now a well-established fact that highway construction displaced communities under the guise of urban renewal. These communities were historically Black or disadvantaged, and, as a result, remain segregated today from goods, services, and amenities that constrain quality of life for community members,” stated New Jersey Future’s executive director, Peter Kasabach.

Kasabach continued: “We have an opportunity right here in Trenton to right this wrong and re-imagine Route 29, which turned over acres of city land and neighborhoods to highway use and severed the community from its Delaware River waterfront. This state route has been proposed for ‘boulevardization’, a process of calming speeds to encourage pedestrian safety while reconnecting neighborhoods to the waterfront and opening up new development opportunities. A group of community advocates and nonprofits based in Trenton is championing this approach with the City, County, and State. Some progress has been made, but advocacy will be needed to secure the necessary funding and keep the near decade-long process on track. This national report from Smart Growth America re-emphasizes the government-sponsored damage done, the opportunities ahead, and why we will continue to advocate for reconfiguring Route 29 as an important project for the equitable and safe redevelopment of Trenton.”

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

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