May/June 1998, p.7

Metropolitan

Highways
New Highway: Government Panacea is Environmental Poison
What do you get when the NJDOT and the NJ Turnpike Authority promote building a new superhighway, but their plan is opposed by nearby communities and nearly every major environmental group? Answer: Route 92, the new $300 million, 6 mile expressway in Middlesex County, NJ, of course. While several local east-west roadways do suffer from congestion problems, bisecting a state-designated "Environmentally Sensitive Planning Area" of farms, wetlands, and forest with pavement has not proven itself to be a cogent solution. DOT's own projections show congestion "relief" to be uncertain, even without considering the new travel demand to be induced, a big concern in the fast-growing Middlesex County. The DOT says the road "respects the State Plan goals to 'Conserve the State's Natural Resources, Protect the Environment, and Ensure Sound and Integrated Planning Statewide'." Even Gov. Whitman is in on the double-speak act, being anti-sprawl and a friend of the environment on one hand, while on the other hand her administration works overtime to speed the project toward construction.

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HOV: No Good Growth
NYS DOT statistics show no growth in usage of the much-ballyhooed LIE HOV lanes since June 1996. Further, there is no data suggesting the HOV lanes are creating new carpools. Interpretation: remove multi-occupant vehicles from regular lanes, and more room opens up for solo drivers. Result: more traffic, more pollution, more vehicles into NYC, and more congestion on local LI streets. Meanwhile, Queens activists, like the 89 members of the Queens Civic Congress, are resisting the LIE HOV eastward expansion.

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M-O-R-E R-O-A-D Spells R-E-L-I-E-F
The NYS DOT projects that additional lane construction on the Staten Island Expressway will afford considerable "congestion relief." However, when pressed, project leaders conceded that the projections assumed existence of a second Goethals Bridge and widening of the West Shore Expressway. Provisions for car and truck trips induced by the added road capacity were not taken into account. One citizen's observation: "I don't see how encouraging people to get into cars will help at all." The study's advisory committee and focus groups have supported transit options, including light rail, and were highly skeptical of adding more highway lanes. Based on past experience, residents will have to fight hard to choose their pain reliever: M-O-R-E O-P-T-I-O-N-S.

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Transit Tidbits

  • In January 1998 NYC Transit carried an extra 12 million passengers compared to 1997. Weekend ridership jumped 30% on buses and 9% on trains. Meanwhile, the LIRR posted its third best year since 1955.
  • The glimmer of hope for lower east side rail may fade fast, as politicos and some planners say it's a bad idea.
  • The NYC Partnership and Chamber of Commerce report that state transit funding trends favor suburban commuters at the expense of city transit riders.
  • Bikes will now be allowed on off peak NJ Transit trains on the Morris & Essex line. The two bike per train limit remains in force.
  • The 7 and 6 trains, and 30 bus routes will "get back" rush hour service which was cut in 1995, thanks in large part to unions, advocates and others who fought for an extra $15 million in the state's budget.

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