July/August 1994, p.5

Auto-Free Press Interview
Janine Bauer

Janine Bauer is the Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a coalition of 14 environmental and public interest groups in Now York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that includes Transportation Alternatives. The Campaign was formed in 1993 to help create an environmentally efficient and socially responsible transportation system in the 32 county region in and surrounding New York City. In June, T.A.'s Jon Orcutt and John Kaehny joined Janine at the Campaign's new office.

T.A.: How did your transportation activism start?
J.B.: In 1975, right out of college, I went to work for the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group. We fought the proposed construction of Rte. 18 near Rutgers in New Brunswick. We lost because we didn't have the tools to stop it At that time highway projects could be built without much environmental review.
Then, in 1990 while on maternity leave, I filed a case opposing a highway construction scheme in Trenton. In the end, it wasn't built But highways and other mega-projects never really die. They rise up 20 or 30 years later. Instead of the highway they built a huge parking deck on the Delaware Canal.

T.A.: The Tri-State Campaign is a big undertaking that's carved out a pretty breathtaking agenda for changing transportation. How does the Campaign compare to similar organizations elsewhere?
J.B.: : I think the Georgia Transportation Alliance has made the best start They've gotten mainstream public figures, like a retired General and some business leaders working with them, and we don't have anyone like that yet.

T.A.: Do they sacrifice anything in militancy or their ability to take a strong stance against agencies that are clearly screwing up by incorporating figures like that into the center of their effort?
J.B.: Anyone with an agenda like ours needs to reach well beyond the environmental movement and find the broad support to change deeply entrenched attitudes about the people's perception of their right to drive. At the same time, there are enough interests and sectors of society that are hurt by the present transportation system that if we do our organizing right we will still be able to talk to the agencies and others with vested interests in car dependence from a position of strength.

T.A.: A lot of groups that fight new or wider highways avoid central transportation issues and use the "snail darter" strategy, suing road builders over endangered species or threatened wetlands. Is that enough, or do we need to start fighting highways as highways - because they move cars, which is an environmental problem in itself regardless of what the road runs through?
J.B.: Well, of course filling in a wetland is an environmental consequence of road building, and the sprawl that highways creates will threaten other wetlands and all kinds of other natural habitat water supplies and so on. The concern over sprawl generates a lot of debate and, at least in New Jersey, is helping forge a consensus that there should be an end to dispersed land-use. So far there is no good enforcement mechanism to contain sprawl.

T.A.: Where's the EPA? A few years ago there was a lot of noise about how strong the Clean Air Act would be this time around. Will EPA wimp out again and fail to make the states dean up their acts?
J.B.: The EPA is uncomfortable injecting itself into debate and imposing its mandates onto state and local agencies...

T.A.: Isn't that their job?
J.B.: It could change - I have a lot of confidence in Jeanne Fox, the new EPA regional administrator. The Clean Air Act is undergoing a backlash as compliance deadlines come due. In NJ, business is trying to water down provisions that make workplaces cut down on employee driving. States are also pressuring Congress, especially the Senate, to keep the new regulations off their backs.

T.A.: Do you think Americans will ever realize that their driving is an environmental issue?
J.B.: Tri-State's ultimate goal is to create a citizens' movement for transportation reform, which will require that at least some Americans come to that conclusion. We are already seeing a mushrooming of local and regional initiatives and coalitions, and more interest by the big national environmental groups. The Environmental Defense Fund was critical in getting the Tri-State Campaign going. Yes, over the long run, I think we'll be successful.

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