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Congestion Buster Task Force


New Ideas Needed to Cut Traffic Congestion

by Dr. Jim Sinclair

How would you reduce traffic congestion in New Jersey? Can you identify any workable projects that could help relieve congestion? As the newly appointed chairman of the "Congestion Buster Task Force," I will be leading a group of business, transportation and local government leaders charged with identifying 10 workable projects that could help relieve congestion in New Jersey - and doing it within one year.

Created as part of the "Congestion Relief and Transportation Trust Fund Renewal Act," (c.27 P.L. 2001), the task force will make recommendations to reduce traffic congestion, develop a commuter options plan to "cap" peak hour vehicle trips, and identify projects to relieve congestion or improve safety. The recommendations will be provided to the Governor and the Legislature in one year.

Most people in New Jersey agree that traffic congestion is a serious problem that will only get worse in the future. Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and sponsor of the Transportation Trust Fund Renewal Act, has stated that congestion costs us nearly $5 billion a year and that it is a serious "Quality of Life" issue. State planners tell us that in the next 20 years New Jersey's population will grow by more than one million people. Improvements in the New York-New Jersey port will bring a four-fold increase in the number of containers moving through the port, with each new container adding one additional truck to regional roadways. Similarly, the growth in e-commerce will increase airfreight activity in and around airports.

The task force will examine regional solutions as well as programs in other states, such as California, that face congestion problems. We will look for new ideas. Some people see congestion as a problem that can be addressed by building new infrastructure - new roads, redesigned existing roads, better signalization, or alternative transportation (trains and buses). Others see congestion as a social issue - sprawl and congestion as a by-product of individual land use decisions involving housing, economic development, personal safety, and education.

The private automobile has given us the power to live where we want, and the market has given us an opportunity to live where we can afford, often adding miles to our daily commutes. New thinking "smart growth" has state planners trying to revise these trends by redeveloping urban areas while shutting down new development in rural areas. Using governmental policies to shape human behavior, however, does not always work in real life. We saw the difficulty of changing individual commuting behavior in the great social engineering experimentation of the federally mandated "Employer Trip Reduction Program."

As a result, a key component of our charge is to develop "doable" proposals. We can recommend more public transportation, mandated car-pooling and so-called "smart growth" all we want. But if the public doesn't want to take the bus to work, car-pool or live in cities, those solutions will accomplish nothing.

That's why we need to hear from as many members of the public as possible. Your comments and ideas will help us develop recommendations that reflect the real world of business and employment, not some utopia created by a government planner.

New Jersey's demographic and economic development projections necessitate a fresh look at what we can do to relieve congestion and solve traffic problems. This requires innovative solutions that are fiscally sensible and politically doable. New Jersey businesses want to attract and retain good employees who arrive unstressed and on time. Our industrial supplies need to arrive at our facilities in a timely manner, and our goods must travel to our customers on schedule. Our customers should not have to overcome gridlock to shop at our stores or visit our world-class tourist destinations. Congestion is a problem that requires our best thinking.

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  Last Updated:  February 22, 2008