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To say New Jersey Transit’s board had a busy meting last month would be an understatement. Board members allocated funds for a corridor study and awarded contracts for several capital projects.
For starters, the board awarded a $6.4 million contract to Simpson & Brown Inc. to construct a pedestrian bridge spanning the east end of the Long Slip Canal adjacent to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station at Hoboken Terminal. Bridge construction will begin later this fall and conclude in spring 2009.
The board also approved a $1.7 million plan to improve Watsessing Station. Watertrol Inc. won a contract to restore the platform and canopy, mount new roof tiles, repair and replace metal fences and stairways, install new platform lighting, and treat concrete surfaces with “anti-graffiti protection,” according to a NJ Transit statement.
Meanwhile, board members awarded a $1.2 million contract to Systra Consulting Inc. to conduct a study to evaluate ways to increase the use of public transportation — specifically, “non-highway solutions” to reduce vehicular congestion on the I-78 and Raritan Valley corridors. Among them: the creation of new or expanded multimodal park-and-ride facilities, and a rail-service extension of the Raritan Valley Line. The federally funded study should be completed by 2008’s end.
Finally, the board approved a 10-year land lease to Notchwood L.L.C., which will develop and build a new Upper Montclair Station featuring a restaurant, public restrooms and waiting areas.
The 2,800-square-foot building, which will cost $850,000 to construct, will replace a structure that was damaged by a 2006 fire. Construction could start by the end of next year, NJ Transit said.
Last month, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation received $5.4 million in federal funding for Wickford Junction Station as part of the South County Commuter Rail project.
Specifically, the Rhode Island DOT will receive $2.45 million to purchase land for a transit parking garage and access easements at Wickford Junction; $1.85 million for project design and engineering work: and $1.2 million to purchase track.
“The need to expand commuter-rail service has become more and more essential as South County’s population has continued to grow,” said Sen. Jack Reed, (D-R.I.), a Senate Appropriations Committee member, in a prepared statement. “There isn’t a whole lot of room to build more roads, but we have the infrastructure in place to expand commuter rail and this money will help make it happen.”
The Rhode Island DOT also plans to extend Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter-rail service to North Kingstown.
Want to reduce traffic congestion and the associated lost productivity time? Cut back on energy consumption? Improve the quality of life? Try making a national commitment to improving all modes of transportation, suggests the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in response to conclusions of a report released last month.
Issued by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), “The 2007 Urban Mobility Report” clearly demonstrates that “public transportation stands out as a proven strategy that helps alleviate traffic congestion and saves energy,” according to an APTA press release.
In the 437 urban areas studied in 2005, public transportation saved 541 million hours in travel time and reduced fuel usage by 340 million gallons, APTA says, citing the report. Without public transportation, congestion costs would have been $10.2 billion more in that year. And in the largest urban areas, where transit is most available and used, the savings are the greatest, demonstrating the value of public transportation investment, the report concludes.
“Unfortunately, public transportation is not readily available in all regions of the country,” said APTA President William Millar. “Only 53 percent of Americans say they have access to any public transportation.”
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officials believe transit options should be expanded in cities that currently aren’t served by a transit authority, said Dallas Area Rapid Transit President and Executive Director Gary Thomas.
“Ours is the second-fastest growing region in the country, and much of our growth is in those unserved areas,” he said.
In short: A national commitment to improve all modes of transportation is needed, Millar said.
So is a commitment to fund public transit at the state and national levels, said Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer Roger Snoble, who hailed the report as a “strong validation of the multi-pronged approach” the agency has taken to relieve traffic congestion in the county.
“Hopefully, lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington will be jarred into action by the congestion report, recognize the economic toll traffic takes and how investment in operational improvements and public transportation ... can and is making a substantial difference in Los Angeles County,” he said.