Environment New Jersey * NJPIRG * TriState Transportation Campaign * NJ Sierra Club * New Jersey Environmental Federation * Audubon Society


NJ GREEN GROUPS: GOV’S TOLL PLAN IS BAD INVESTMENT

Green Transportation Best Choice for the Economy

For Immediate Release

October 14, 2008  

Contacts:
Matt Elliott, Environment NJ: 908-2178-2496
Jacob Koetsier, NJPIRG: 609-394-8155 x313
Zoe Baldwin, Tri-State Transp. Cmpgn: 609.271.0778
David Pringle, NJEF: 732-996-4288
Jeff Tittel, Sierra Club: 609-558-9100

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Trenton, NJ -- On Thurs, Gov. Corzine will deliver a major address on the state’s economy, and will detail plans to help solve the state’s economic woes. During the address, the governor is expected to highlight his plans to increase tolls and widen the state’s major highways.

Today, a coalition of environmental, transportation, and public interest groups argued that the governor’s plan would be a bad investment and would pass up better options that would grow the economy and protect the environment.

“Certainly, New Jersey is faced with serious problems – the economy, traffic congestion, and the environment are all huge issues,” said Matt Elliott, Global Warming and Clean Energy Advocate at Environment New Jersey. “Governor Corzine has pledged to grow the economy, to reduce congestion, and to fight global warming. Widening our roads is a failed strategy on all accounts.”

A 2004 study conducted by the Surface Transportation Policy Project shows that repairing existing roads and bridges as well as investing in public transportation creates far more jobs than widening roads. Investments in public transportation create 19 percent more jobs than equal investments in new road and bridge capacity.

“39 groups sent a letter opposing these projects to the Governor, the Commissioners of NJDOT and NJDEP and the Executive Director of the Turnpike Authority because they will harm hundreds of acres of sensitive land, yet will not relieve traffic.” Said Zoe Baldwin, NJ Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We should be investing in mass transit like the ARC Tunnel and investigating demand management strategies such as HOT lanes if we want to create jobs and ease congestion long-term.”

Other studies have proven that widening roads does little to ease congestion. In fact, according to a study published by the American Planning Association, a 10% increase in lane miles is directly associated with a 9% increase in vehicle miles traveled. Also, the Turnpike Authority’s own data shows portions of the newly widened Parkway will reach full capacity before construction is complete, and the Turnpike widening project will induce huge increases in traffic.

“Governor Corzine wants to invest New Jerseyans' hard earned money in solutions that offer only temporary relief and amount to a $7 billion boondoggle. With all his experience on Wall Street, you'd think the governor would recognize a bad investment when he saw one.” said Jacob Koetsier, an advocate with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG).

“The drivers of New Jersey will pay more to be stuck in traffic longer,” stated Jeff Tittel, Director NJ Sierra Club. “These toll hikes are not about getting people to work -- they are about “pay to play” and more sprawl development. These are the largest road widening projects in NJ in more than 3 decades and take place mostly in the Pinelands and farmlands of South Jersey where there are more pine trees and horses than people.”

Transportation is the leading source of global warming pollution in New Jersey. Under the Global Warming Response Act, the state is required to reduce global warming pollution 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. More cars on the highway could cause the state to violate that law.

A 2007 report by Environment New Jersey shows that global warming could impact New Jersey’s economy in myriad ways. Rising sea levels could inundate the beaches that support a $16 billion tourism economy in the state, and more frequent tropical storms could cause major interruptions on the state’s critical transportation infrastructure, including the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

The coalition praised public transportation as a win-win for the economy and the fight against global warming, citing recent efforts by the New Jersey legislature to bring more “green jobs” to the state.

“Believing highway expansion is part of the solution is just as flawed as the Bush crowd's 'drill baby drill' mantra. The Governor should prioritize investing in mass transit and repairing our existing roads and bridges instead. It would increase his plan's economic benefits and flip its environmental negatives to positives with more and greener jobs,” added David Pringle of the NJ Environmental Federation.

Beyond global warming, environmentalists note that expanding roadways will swallow more open space in a state that is already the most densely populated in the nation.

“Fragmentation and infrastructure in the form of roads and widening roads is a big threat to habitat in New Jersey. Six or Eight lanes of high-speed, high volume traffic is the equivalent of the Chinese Wall for a Pine Barrens Tree Frog or New Jersey Pine Snake. Widening a road in these locations equates to a death sentence for one of these threatened and endangered reptiles and amphibians.” Said Kelly Mooij, Director of Government Relations for the New Jersey Audubon Society.

Together, the groups called upon the governor to veto plans to spend $7 billion to widen the state’s toll roads. Instead, they argued, the governor should evaluate alternatives to reduce congestion and maximize job creation. The unintended impacts of widening are vast, they said, and sustainable solutions to congestion and economic growth should be prioritized.

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