In June, Transportation Alternatives joined with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and NJ civic groups in a lawsuit which cites the NJ Department of Transportation's failure to obey requirements of the NJ Transportation Trust Fund. This trust fund requires that the NJDOT fix half of the state's structurally deficient roads and bridges and build 1,000 new lane-miles of bicycle paths in the next five years. The lawsuit says that NJDOT has ignored the law and that it has not put sufficient funds in its 2002 budget to meet these goals. The lawsuit also challenges the diversion of $90 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund by Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco and Acting Treasurer Peter Lawrence.
"The Governor and the DOT are violating the law," said Janine Bauer, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "Voters approved adding more money to the Trust Fund on the pledge that our roads and bridges would be fixed. There is enough money to fix half the bridges and build the bike lanes, but it is being spent elsewhere."
New Jersey's republican voters surprised the state by selecting right-wing Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler to face democrat James McGreevey in the November governor's contest. In what is becoming a race to see who can tear out the tolls on the Garden State Parkway faster, neither candidate offers a credible sustainable transportation agenda.
While McGreevey, the mayor of sprawling Woodbridge, is felt by environmental advocates to be the superior candidate, his transportation policies are a mixed bag. He wants to restore the $90 million sales and gas tax funds siphoned away from the Transportation Trust Fund, but he would use some of that money for new highways and more lanes on existing roads. In a better proposal, he advocates establishing new passenger rail service on a Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex line, the Lackawanna cut-off and a West Trenton route to Newark, all of which would reduce congestion and take drivers off the roads.
Facing him is Schundler, cloaked in the tax-cutting, socially conservative language of his idol, Ronald Reagan. Although an advocate of city revitalization and land-use that reduces the need to drive, Schundler once said: "These people who want to take a position to not build any more road capacity are nuts. You should do what makes sense."
Neither gubernatorial candidate offers a coherent, inspiring and environmentally conscious approach to relieve the state's over-burdened transportation infrastructure. And by eliminating the Parkway tolls, both would rely on an old model of subsidies for unsustainable transportation.
The only good news in this race is that by not running for mayor of Jersey City again, Schundler's plan to turn the Bergen Arches rail right-of-way into a highway from a new Secaucus Turnpike interchange through Tonnelle Circle to the Holland Tunnel and on to the Jersey City waterfront is dead. A new transit link is now more likely.
In June, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and 14 other Long Island groups presented a five-point transit plan to candidates running for the Nassau county legislature and executive. The "Better Transit" plan calls on candidates to:
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano insisted that the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council delay the approval of the Thruway Authority's "Tappan Zee Bridge Alternatives Analysis." Both Spano and Rockland Executive Scott Vanderhoef said they would not support a new Tappan Zee Bridge crossing unless it included mass transit. Spano's action reflects the concerns of environmentalists and local towns that the transit section of the analysis is an attempt by the Thruway Authority to deflect attention from its' efforts to widen Interstate-287 on the bridge and its approaches.