Friday, August 30, 2013

Commissioner Simpson Reaffirms Commitment To Complete Streets But Route 35 Bike Lanes Still In Limbo

In a stunning Op Ed piece in the Star Ledger. NJ DOT Commissioner James Simpson reaffirms the Christy Administration's commitment to complete streets. The Commissioner goes on to cite pending and recently completed projects, including the proposed road diet of Route 71, which is the Main St for several Monmouth County Beach Communitie and the Department's crown jewel - the Ocean City Causeway, which is already beginning to see a major return on investment. He also talks about the equally important task of bringing counties and municipalities on board with their own complete streets policies, because chances are that when you walk out of your front door you will be on a local street. We agree, when it comes to complete streets NJ DOT is walking the walk.

The Commissioner notes in his editorial that complete strategies are being implemented on Route 35 such as ADA curb ramps, continuous sidewalk and pedestrian countdown signals, however when it comes to bike lanes he becomes more ambiguous.

Incorporating accommodations for bicyclists is more of a challenge because the department is not purchasing land from private property owners to widen Route 35, and it does not have the funding to do so. However, the department and its design teams are creating plans to improve accommodations for bicyclists within the existing right-of-way where feasible, and will be discussing these ideas with local communities in the coming weeks and months.

This is what project managers have been telling Complete Streets advocates since the spring, yet public meetings have been held and comments have been submitted by hundreds of citizens. But in mid August the construction contracts were awarded without provisions for bike lanes. The Commissioner is advising the public that it is too early to expect design plans for bike lanes, but the actions of the DOT suggest that the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted on this project.

What's disheartening about the whole process is the missed opportunity to create a first class bikeway from Point Pleasant to Island Beach State Park. While there are major challenges on the north end they are not insurmountable and farther south we were able to fit in a protected bike lane using Streetmix for the Lavallette business district without making any changes to the parking configuration (head in angle parking on both sides of the street). Compare it to the cross sections that NJDOT is implementing.

Rendering created at http://streetmix.net/. All images from Streetmix come with Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.

Clearly, there is available road space along most of the route to add bike lanes without impacting private property or taking existing parking from businesses.We know the leadership at NJDOT and its skilled staff can combine its Complete Street expertise with practical application to find a way to safely accommodate bicyclists along Route 35.


2 comments:

Andrew J. Besold said...

It is clear that the pressure from the NJ Bike and Walk Coalition as well as that from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and this blog has reached the Commissioner desk. His Op-Ed in New Jersey's largest paper is evidence of that.

However, I also feel that putting bike lanes within the current right-of-way on most of Rt 35 is increadibly simple. The highway is massively wide in all but the northern few miles in the Mantaloking area.

Also, he cites the Rt 72 Manahawkin Bridge project. We at WBJ have ripped this project appart for be FAR from "complete." Also blissfuly forgotten is the Rt 1 Penns Neck project at Washtington Street. This recently released NJDOT design has NO accomodations for bicyclists or pedestrians despite the fact that NJDOT, Mercer County AND West Windsor all have Complete Streets Policies! The proposed design actually makes things MORE dangerous with the inclusion of a highspeed cloverleaf for traffic coming off US 1 south to Washington east.

I'm sorry Commissioner. Your Complete Streets Policy is not yet reaching half of its potential!

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