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Transportation and mobility is a primary focus of the MRC due to the direct impact on economic development. Upgrades to road infrastructure along with additional and improved mass transit options will help position the Meadowlands as a vibrant location to locate a business. For over 25 years, the MRC through its Transportation Committee has been a vocal advocate for both short and long term planning of Transportation and mobility. We know clearly what is at stake in attracting and retaining companies to our region and more importantly we fully understand the impacts on the quality of life for residents in this region. The Chamber Board is committed to leading the way on transportation planning for the future by continuing to host Transportation Summits where we bring statewide policy makers and legislators together to implement the items we identify. The most recent “White Paper” on this topic was completed presented at the 2012 Transportation Summit in September 2012, keynoted by Port Authority NY/NJ Chairman David Samson.
Other helpful links:
TRANSPORTATION WHITE PAPER 2012
UNLOCKING MOBILITY FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
THE SUPER BOWL AND BEYOND
THE MEADOWLANDS REGIONAL CHAMBER AND TRANSPORTATION
The Meadowlands Regional Chamber has been at the forefront of transportation issues for over 30 years. Periodically, the Board of Directors, through the MRC’s Transportation Committee, releases a White Paper articulating advocacy positions and transportation priorities for the region. At times it seems as though we address the same issues and needs year after year. In one sense this is true – while the scope of certain projects and priorities may change, money is always tight, and we continue to push for bus and rail improvements and road rehabilitation and reconstruction on critical links. In 2012, we face some new challenges since our last White Paper in 2008. Some projects, such as Access to the Region’s Core, are no more. Some development projects, such as EnCap, are no more. Yet we have new events and projects that demand attention, and require dedicated efforts to find creative solutions for patrons and employees to move into and around the district.
The transportation projects that succeed are those with unified support from the community, elected officials and business, and strong advocacy. Thus the Chamber, as the voice for its members, sees its role as bringing together and monitoring the various parties responsible for transportation planning and implementation – the New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, Bergen County, Hudson County, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Port Authority, at a minimum – to maintain a focus on the needs of the Meadowlands area in the context of frequently diverse political goals.
The importance of our advocacy is readily evident when you examine the role of and level of passenger activity at the Frank R. Lautenberg Transportation Center (Secaucus Junction) today, for which this Chamber advocated at least thirty years ago. Skeptics and critics said it was not needed or that it would never see much use. Today, this is the third busiest railroad passenger facility on the NJT rail system handling about 20,000 boarding passengers daily right behind Penn Station, NY and Newark Penn Station. Without this facility, there would be no rail service to the Sports Complex that would connect readily to New York City and large portions of NJ. For the upcoming Super Bowl, without Secaucus Junction, we would not be able to accomplish what will be necessary in terms of public transit access. Our belief in needed transportation improvements and our advocacy has and will make a difference as long as we remain focused and work together - - one message delivered with the force we all bring to this Chamber.
MEADOWLANDS MOBILITY – ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Ø Enhancing business productivity
Ø Getting people to the jobs
Ø Attracting new growth and investment
Ø Creating the necessary linkages to support the region’s most important destination
Achieving the economic potential of the Meadowlands is contingent on: our ability to improve commercial and residential mobility and alleviate congestion, and to provide the necessary linkages to attract patrons to the area’s largest recreational and entertainment events. In spite of the economic challenges that have persisted in our region, in New Jersey and in the country, we are fortunate to have many opportunities to jump-start economic activity and lay foundations for future growth. The new MetLife Stadium, the opening of American Dream Meadowlands and the revitalization of the New Meadowlands Racetrack will cement the Meadowlands as a national sports, entertainment and retail destination. The Super Bowl of 2014 is an occasion to put our region on the map and convert a short-term event into enduring benefits of infrastructure improvement and business attraction. Similarly, WrestleMania and Formula One represent further opportunities to showcase our region. And with the necessary infrastructure in place, these important events will continue to seek the Meadowlands region as a preferred venue.
The challenge, in this broad and dense metropolitan area, is to transform and enhance our transportation system to address the needs of not only these special events, with their thousands of patrons from in and outside the region, but of the development and redevelopment that is essential for the Meadowlands to recover, maintain and attract business and industry, provide jobs for our citizens, support thriving residential neighborhoods and meet community needs. Transportation has a further role to play in alleviating today’s critical unemployment, by making it feasible for potential workers to get to available jobs.
If we cannot provide the transportation systems and linkages to make all this possible, negative perceptions will persist and grow, business will migrate elsewhere, and the promise of the region will not be attained. Simply stated, the Meadowlands can be a magnet for economic opportunity, from a local, regional, national and worldwide perspective – but only if all parties work together to invest in solutions for our transportation network. In that context, we can capitalize further on our transportation investments by aligning land use regulation accordingly, allowing high densities in areas convenient to transit systems.
An optimal transportation system in the Meadowlands carries a staggering price tag, when all the requirements for road and bridge rehabilitation, local improvements, public transit expansion and operation are taken into account. We also recognize that major construction projects, whether road or rail, involve multi-year planning and funding commitments. It is our intent to remain engaged and advocate for such projects, such as, for example, the Northern Branch extension of the Bergen-Hudson Light Rail Transit system into Bergen County and new trans-Hudson rail capacity. But it is also incumbent upon us to examine new initiatives that can be implemented over a shorter time frame, are less expensive and are more flexible, particularly with respect to intra-Meadowlands travel as well as trans-Hudson travel. This premise was presented in the last White Paper on Transportation in 2008, and continues as the Chamber’s central focus in this document.
Our past advocacy has produced real results. We have pressed for many projects that have been completed or are underway:
· Rt. 3 Passaic River bridge project – advanced timeline
· 16W & 18W Interchange improvements – supporting the MetLife Stadium and American Dream Meadowlands
· Sports Complex Rail Station – a $144 million investment inaugurating a new era in travel to the Sports Complex
· Shuttle Systems – Meadowlands Corporate Center/Avalon, Secaucus/Moonachie job connections
· Parking facility at Secaucus Junction – long overdue, enabling increased multimodal travel
· Route 17/Essex Street interchange – safer, smoother traffic movements
· Pascack Valley Line service improvements – resulting in increased ridership and access
· Enhanced bus service at Secaucus Junction (planned) – further development of the hub
Together with the anchor of Secaucus Junction, these projects provide the foundation for renewed mobility. Future improvements will, to a large extent, key into these major investments, particularly with regard to rail. Secaucus Junction should be promoted and attain its potential as a regional transportation hub, linking New York City and points north and south to the Meadowlands.
RENEWED ADVOCACY FOCUS
Make Major Catalysts Work
Super Bowl and other major events like Formula 1 racing and Wrestlemania are not just exciting sporting events for the region. It is an opportunity to demonstrate to the world, that our area works for business as well as recreation, and to attract back events and investments that will produce revenue for New Jersey and spin-off benefits for our area industries. Making mobility work for these events means allowing those patrons and investors to have an exciting, not a frustrating experience and using the event as a catalyst to institute effective transportation improvements and operations that will remain and have lasting benefits for the region in supporting economic growth. These improvements should include commitments to new bus and rail service and shuttle connections that link the special event sites, Secaucus Junction, Newark Airport, Teterboro Airport and local hotels, restaurants and attractions
American Dream will be the anchor for a nationally renowned sports and entertainment destination. Patrons will be drawn from the region, the State and the nation. Employees will be drawn from the region. To maximize the employment opportunities from this economic powerhouse, the necessary transportation connections must be in place, so that our citizens have access to these jobs. This includes service from likely employee resident concentrations, including cities such as Paterson, Hackensack, Newark and Hudson County, the HBLRT terminus at Tonnelle Avenue, and Secaucus Junction. We understand that NJ Transit has committed to more frequent train service to the Sports Complex, as well as bus service connections to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. American Dream plans an internal shuttle for rail users to easily access its facility. We applaud these efforts, and suggest that connections set in place for Super Bowl will have a role in making American Dream work.
We encourage expanded planning to create a local bus transportation hub at American Dream, complementing Secaucus Junction, which will provide a center for:
· the Route 120 bus routes,
· buses or shuttles from Newark Airport,
· connections to and from local downtowns in the surrounding area,
· implemented Route 3 bus stops earlier planned near the Timex training facility and Metropolitan Towers locations,
· shuttle connections to American Dream from those Route 3 stops, as part of an
Intra-Sports Complex employee and customer circulation among all the attractions: Metlife Stadium, American Dream, IZOD Center and New Meadowlands Racetrack,
· a comprehensive travel information stop for visitors and employees.
The creation of a bus stop on Route 120 integrated into the American Dream parking areas, as planned by the developer and NJ Transit, is an initial step in realizing this hub. A more complete intermodal center is possible in the parking area just west of the IZOD center, incorporating links to the rail station and connections to the HBLRT line.
Metlife Stadium, American Dream Meadowlands, and the revitalized New Meadowlands Racetrack will bring the Sports Complex into the 21st century. Both the initial and potential future phases of these investments must be integrated into planning for highway, transit and intra-sports complex connections. Affirmative marketing to educate patrons and employees in the region about public transit options must be part of this effort and must begin with the Super Bowl and the opening of American Dream.
Optimize and Expedite Bus Travel
Though often overlooked when considering innovative transit solutions, buses comprise a flexible and responsive system that can address many needs. The proposed expansion of bus capacity by 14 new bays at Secaucus Junction is a needed benefit to achieve the multimodal potential of the station. The Meadowlands District is home to some of the most heavily traveled bus routes in the nation. Our goal must be to expedite bus travel at posted speeds, while creating new intra-Meadowlands and intra-district travel connections.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is flexible transit, operating like a Rubber-Tired Light Rail system. It represents an opportunity to develop high-speed transit corridors that are integrated with the residential and business community and feed into transit hubs, such as Secaucus Junction and the HBLRT terminus. These systems could be a meaningful alternative to single-occupancy vehicle use, utilizing high-end equipment and Exclusive Bus Lanes (XBL) or signal timing to maintain consistent speeds. They have been successful, lower-cost alternatives to rail expansion nationally and globally. Metropolitan New Jersey is an ideal setting to utilize these systems. BRT can:
1. Optimize the use of limited road space and reduce congestion
2. Leverage the multimillion dollar investments in Secaucus Junction, HBLRT and the Sports Complex rail station
3. Provide an immediate benefit to the local community.
The Meadowlands Regional Chamber supports Bergen County’s new project to analyze these systems and identify feasible pilot routes for intra-Bergen travel. We urge Bergen County to identify a Meadowlands BRT route that can be implemented to serve the community and provide job and patron access for American Dream, other Sports Complex attractions and employment concentrations, and encourage New Jersey Transit to make it a reality.
Route 3 Corridor
The Route 3 Corridor is the transportation spine of the Meadowlands. About 30,000 transit riders travel in about 1,000 bus trips daily on this corridor, primarily to and from New York City. Most of the buses originate outside the Meadowlands and compete for road space with about 73,000 other eastbound vehicles, mostly single occupancy cars, before they merge into the most successful Exclusive Bus Lane in the country, leading into the Lincoln Tunnel. Currently, many of these buses, in fact most of these buses, do not stop in the Meadowlands and hence do not serve the local community. A successful BRT/XBL expansion project in the Meadowlands should include:
The Route 3 BRT could be designed to extend from the Allwood Park and Ride in Clifton to the proposed Route 3/Route 21 multimodal hub, and through to the existing Lincoln Tunnel XBL to create the regions primary transit corridor. BRT along other arteries such as Route 17, Routes 1 & 9 and Meadowlands Parkway could also be utilized to complete the network.
The Chamber also will continue to advocate additional strategies to achieve the potential for improved bus service in the District, including:
In sum, it is essential that The New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, Bergen County, NYNJ Port Authority and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission work to develop a plan to optimize and expedite improvements in bus travel in the district, responding to existing and emerging development patterns.
Establish an Internal Shuttle Circulation System
The Meadowlands District has over 25 existing and proposed key nodes of residential, recreational, industrial and commercial activity. Most of these are adjacent to major highways such as Route 3, Route 17, Routes 1 & 9, and Meadowlands Parkway, all of which have the potential to employ exclusive bus lanes or BRT, as noted earlier. New intra-district bus or shuttle networks should be explored and developed to link nodes or clusters of nodes to the new bus hubs on Route 3, as well as to Secaucus Junction and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Station at Tonnelle Avenue.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and NJ Transit took an important step in this direction several years ago by initiating the Meadowlands Corporate Center shuttle. This service, operated by Meadowlink, connects the Meadowlands Corporate Center with bus service at Polito Avenue, as well as the Lyndhurst and Rutherford rail stations. Ridership has grown considerably since 2010. Other shuttles operated by Meadowlink connect the Secaucus Junction train station with, respectively, Harmon Meadow, Harmon Cove businesses, and employers in the Carlstadt/Moonachie area. Other links planned include a Tonnelle Avenue route between the HBLRT terminus in North Bergen and Journal Square station in Jersey City, and a Route 3 shuttle from Clifton/Nutley to Secaucus Junction, which, in the future, could also incorporate American Dream. These examples illustrate not only the potential of an intra-Meadowlands shuttle network to move residents and commuters around the district, but also what can be achieved with public-private partnerships and funding.
Shuttle routes should be designed to benefit from the synergy of including both residential and commercial nodes -- serving both Meadowlands employers and residents using the transit hubs. Other important links should connect the Sports Complex, American Dream, the Secaucus Outlet Center, Harmon Meadow and major corporate parks. Again, the stimulus of Super Bowl and American Dream represents a prime opportunity to set pilot routes in motion without delay.
Promote Secaucus Junction as a Regional Hub
Secaucus Junction, a pivotal $609 million investment earlier derided by some as a white elephant, now moves 20,000 people a day, as pointed out earlier. This facility has the ability to link the Meadowlands with the larger region and the nation, by virtue of connections with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Manhattan and Metro-North. This will have considerable impact in managing visitors to Meadowlands events and destinations, and should be complemented by necessary improvements in facilities, capacity and operation of the Sports Complex rail connection.
In our 2008 White Paper we noted the urgency of developing park and ride facilities at the train station. The Edison parking facility established since that report has been successful, demonstrating the demand for a range of multimodal connections. The use of the lot should be monitored to identify any need for additional facilities.
The Meadowlands Chamber has long advocated the full development of local bus links to Secaucus Junction. We are pleased to learn that $7 million has been appropriated for a bus terminal there to facilitate intermodal transfers, which should be constructed in the next 18 months. Secaucus Junction must continue to be recognized and enhanced as the primary regional commuter hub in the district.
Develop a Plan for a New Trans-Hudson Rail Connection
New Trans-Hudson Rail Connections remain critical for the future of the region. The needs have not disappeared with the ARC project. Expansion of rail capacity into Manhattan is essential to congestion relief and future growth, given increases in ridership and the limited ability to increase highway capacity. We urge Federal, State and local officials to recognize the national importance of this project and develop cooperatively a solution that links efficiently to transit connections in Manhattan, provides improved Midtown station capacity, and gives NJ Transit the equipment to meet the capacity and address future needs.
Road Network Improvements
In these days of sharply limited budgets, we do not expect to see new or vastly expanded highway links and road improvements. Priority must be on maintaining safe conditions for the roadways and bridges we have now. Operational improvements that optimize the roadways we have must be explored, such as the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s adaptive signal project. This project will provide full detection and communication for 130 signals throughout the Meadowlands road network with constant retiming atintersections to optimize traffic flow. This effort is a prime example of an innovative approach to maximize use of our existing transportation infrastructure. Once this program is completed and its effectiveness is evaluated, the agencies should consider whether it should be expanded, and whether similar investment can improve other local road networks.
The most critical, heavily traveled thoroughfares in the Meadowlands are Route 3, Route 17, and the New Jersey Turnpike. The secondary networks, including Meadowlands Parkway, West Side Avenue, Route 120, and Paterson Plank Road, feed off these arteries and provide access to a plethora of businesses and residential areas in the Meadowlands. In the attention paid to large-scale projects and events, the need to improve access to maintain and enhance the viability of these areas must not be forgotten.
Much has been done in recent years in NJ Turnpike interchange improvements and on Route 3. Below is a list of priority road improvement issues identified by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber to continue this work:
The Route 3 Passaic River Bridge improvement was strongly advocated by the Chamber in our last White Paper and is under construction. Now, the critical element is completion by the date of the Super Bowl in 2014. NJDOT and the contractors should do what is necessary to expedite the schedule, complete the project, and avoid disastrous construction delays during that event. Second, as noted above, the current constriction at overpasses will impede the opportunity for preferential bus and shuttle travel and thus achieving the full congestion mitigation potential of this improvement. The Chamber advocates allocation of necessary funds to correct this condition. Route 17 is a key artery linking the Meadowlands with Bergen County. Flood prevention improvements undertaken by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission have contributed greatly to operation of this road through our district. However, the lane constrictions in Route 17 south of Route 4 continue to be a major bottleneck, notwithstanding the completed improvements at the Essex Street interchange. This highway has been the subject of many studies – now is the time to fund the completion of engineering design for a consistent six-lane roadway from the Route 4 interchange to the Route 3 interchange and place it in a priority construction schedule.
Paterson Plank Road has been the focus of iterations of redevelopment planning, and is also the gateway to the Sports Complex, the renewed racetrack and American Dream. A proposed expansion from four to six lanes would improve east-west mobility in the area, as an alternative to Route 3, and would support redevelopment efforts. Mobility in and out of the district for goods as well as employees is critical to maintain and improve the viability of older warehouse and industrial districts, in areas of Carlstadt, East Rutherford and Moonachie north and south of Paterson Plank Road.
Route 7/Belleville Turnpike has become a focus of redevelopment potential as a warehouse/distribution hub. Hudson County is seeking redevelopers for the Koppers Coke site and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is marketing a site in North Arlington . All told, this area could accommodate as much as 1.5 million square feet of modern warehouse distribution space. This opportunity would mesh well with the Bayonne Bridge upgrade scheduled for 2015, enabling the Meadowlands District to benefit from Panamax traffic – particularly given limited space at the Port itself. However, to take advantage of this economic potential, flooding issues that cause road closures along the Belleville Turnpike corridor must be addressed. It is our understanding that NJDOT has scheduled improvements to elevate the roadway and provide flood control. We urge the NJDOT to act on these improvements so that they are completed by 2014, and move ahead on the associated Portway improvements, including the replacement of the Wittpenn Bridge over the Hackensack River and realignment of the Fish House Road intersection on the west side of the river.
The scope of improvements associated with the Portway freight movement project take on a new importance with the expansion of the Panama Canal. The Meadowlands Regional Chamber applauds the Port Authority’s expedited schedule to remove the Bayonne Bridge deck by late 2015, coordinating with the opening of the canal expansion. Can the Meadowlands be in a position to benefit from the increased shipping activity expected as a result of this expansion and raising of the Bayonne Bridge? Mobility for goods movement is key, and the improvements noted above must be engineered and executed to support this critical economic sector.
With the multiplicity of projects planned and scheduled for the district, including replacement of the Goethals Bridge and rehabilitation of the Pulaski Skyway, construction scheduling, coordination and mitigation will be essential to maintain mobility, particularly during upcoming special events such as Super Bowl, Wrestlemania and Formula One racing. A major question: what can be completed before Super Bowl? If not completed, can construction be suspended during that time? We urge State, County and local officials to coordinate on route alternatives and engage Meadowlink to provide shuttle services during construction periods. We support the actions of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority to provide a coordination function for the operation of projects in the region.
CONTINUED ADVOCACY/LONG TERM NEEDS
This White Paper has focused on advocating implementable, operational solutions for mobility. However, we cannot lose sight of the longer-term, structure-intensive projects that take years to execute and establish new elements of the regional transportation system for the next century. These include:
· HBLRT extension to the Meadowlands. We remain interested in working with NJ
Transit and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to examine extension alternatives that would maximize investment by connecting critical economic and residential concentrations in the district.
· The Northern Branch extension of the light rail system into Bergen County makes a great deal of sense in a context having limited public transit alternatives. We recognize the high cost of this project and the complications of local objectives. However, we advocate allocating the funding for NJ Transit to study and implement an alternative that terminates in the Englewood Hospital area, serving that institution as well as the Englewood downtown, which is seeing considerable residential redevelopment.
· Phase II of the Sports Complex rail loop seems like a distant concept, as Phase I is still so new. Still, with the new destinations at the complex, it will be necessary to monitor attendance and ridership and identify appropriate design, timing and funding for the next stage. This direct connection to the Bergen County line will be important in the long-term to maintain and increase transit ridership to the Complex and employment sites.
SUMMARY OF CHIEF RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION ITEMS
While it is our intent to speak with “one voice” for the region and present a unified front for public funding of equipment and operations to achieve an integrated, modern transportation network, it is clear that such funding is limited. Public/private partnerships will be the key to implementation of many new initiatives, with participation of those who will derive the greatest benefit from the project being advanced, whether that participation is providing bus and rail stops, land contribution or financial investment. Such partnerships, for example, have been the backbone of several shuttle routes, and could be brought to bear in the implementation of BRT and other flexible transit options.
A cohesive effort is needed to keep moving forward, spearheaded by a group with a holistic, network approach to improving mobility in the Meadowlands District. The Meadowlands Regional Chamber recommends the formation of an interagency, public/private blue ribbon panel to continue this discussion, dedicated to innovative thinking , the creation of public/private partnerships, and coordination of planning and implementation for transportation solutions for the 21st century.
1. IDENTIFY AND IMPLEMENT EXPANDED BUS AND RAIL OPERATIONS AND SHUTTLE SYSTEMS TO SUPPORT SUPER BOWL AND AMERICAN DREAM PATRONS AND EMPLOYEES
2. CREATE A BUS AND TRANSPORTATION HUB AT AMERICAN DREAM MEADOWLANDS
3. IDENTIFY MEADOWLANDS BRT ROUTES THAT CAN BE IMPLEMENTED TO ADDRESS 2014 NEEDS AND THE FUTURE
4. FUND AND STUDY A PILOT BRT ROUTE ON THE ROUTE 3 CORRIDOR
5. LINK ROUTE 3 BUS HUBS WITH LOCAL BUS AND SHUTTLE ROUTES
6. SUPPORT AND IMPLEMENT FLEXIBLE SHUTTLE NETWORKS THAT LINK MAJOR RESIDENTIAL AND EMPLOYMENT CONCENTRATIONS IN THE MEADOWLANDS
7. MAXIMIZE INVESTMENT IN SECAUCUS JUNCTION AND THE SPORTS COMPLEX RAIL STATION BY INCREASING BUS CONNECTIONS AND PROMOTING ITS STATUS AS A REGIONAL HUB
8. IDENTIFY A WORKABLE SOLUTION FOR INCREASING TRANS-HUDSON RAIL CAPACITY THAT PROVIDES ADEQUATE CAPACITY FOR NEW JERSEY TRANSIT AND LINKS EFFECTIVELY TO THE MANHATTAN TRANSIT SYSTEM
9. ADDRESS BUS AND STORAGE CAPACITY ISSUES AT THE PABT AS AN INTERSTATE EFFORT
10. EXPEDITE THE PASSAIC RIVER BRIDGE/ROUTE 3 IMPROVEMENT FOR COMPLETION BY SUPER BOWL. CORRECT OVERPASS LANE RESTRICTIONS
11. FUND FINAL DESIGN OF THE ROUTE 17 LANE EXPANSION SOUTH OF ROUTE 4
12. EXPEDITE IMPROVEMENTS ON THE BELLEVILLE TURNPIKE AND WITTPENN BRIDGE TO RESPOND TO PANAMAX OPPORTUNITIES
13. INSTITUTE EFFECTIVE CONSTRUCTION COORDINATION AND MITIGATION FOR MULTIPLE DISTRICT PROJECTS