The current Essex County Transportation Plan has not been updated in 28 years and is not only outdated but obsolete. With twenty-two municipalities within the County at or near full build-out the need to update the Plan is critical to improving and/or replacing the existing infrastructure while preserving available land for parks and open space, for the rapidly growing population.
The County’s radial roads, including Bloomfield Avenue, Springfield Avenue, Clinton Avenue, South Orange Avenue, have established patterns of mobility by automobile and bus. However, many of these same radial arteries, that offer connectivity within the County, are conflicted by congestion caused by heavy use from domestic, freight and bus traffic with constricted opportunities due to right-of-way limitations that inhibit left turns, loading and unloading of bus and commercial vehicles. Common points of congestion within many parts of the County often occur in areas of high pedestrian activity, with resulting effects on pedestrian mobility and safety and hazardous conditions for bicycle mobility.
In addition, Essex County already has some of the most heavily traveled bus routes in New Jersey and, with the completion of the Montclair Connection, has experienced greater use of its rail transit opportunities. With the large number of mostly historic train stations within neighborhoods, many of which offer redevelopment opportunities (Bloomfield and Watsessing Stations), the Plan can provide new impetus for Transit Oriented Design (TOD). When partnered with the use of provisions of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (NJSA 40A: 12A-1 et seq.), TOD concepts can be combined with sustainable planning and design principles such as those embodied within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Rating System and expressed in locally implemented redevelopment plans for defined districts around train stations and bus stops.
The project’s Core Team understand the importance of implementing a Complete Streets Policy in order to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, children, older citizens, non-drivers and the mobility challenged, as well as, those that cannot afford a car or choose to live car-free. The Plan will focus on providing connections to bicycling and walking trip generators such as employment, education, residential, recreation, retail centers and public facilities. This policy will create more livable communities and promote a healthy lifestyle while placing an emphasis on environmental sustainability by reducing traffic congestion and reliance on carbon fuels thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Complete Streets make fiscal sense by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings and transit.
In developing the most effective Plan that will benefit the County well into the future, the Core Team will evaluate the comprehensive needs of the County’s transportation users and will outline clearly defined and agreed upon goals objectives for the Plan. We will gather existing data to assess the existing conditions and address the issues concerning the system’s ability to accept future growth. Through an open and inclusive process, we will identify the interests and needs of the community, to define opportunities and challenges and develop options for implementation consistent with existing land uses and inclusive of the modes of transportation. We recognize the need to maintain the balance between preserving open space and need to address concerns of an aging infrastructure. Through previous experience, local knowledge, and innovative approaches, the Core Team is helping Essex County address its growth and development well into the 21st century.