Testimony of Janna Chernetz, NJ Advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and Department of Environmental Protection
Public Hearing November 26, 2011
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Janna Chernetz and I am the New Jersey Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and also a life-long resident of New Jersey. Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit policy organization working for a more equitable and environmentally sound transportation network and sustainable land use policy in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Our primary objective regarding the American Dream Meadowlands project is to ensure adequate and reliable public transportation to the facility, and to ensure that American Dream does not pose a further drain on New Jersey’s existing infrastructure and economy.
After reviewing the Supplemental EIS; paying specific attention to the transportation component, TSTC finds that there remain too many unanswered questions.
A prominent assumption for the underlying transportation component is that Triple Five anticipates a substantial increase in the use of mass transit by American Dream Meadowlands patrons and employees and a simultaneous decrease in automobile traffic. While we applaud Triple Five for its recognition of the imperative role mass transit will play in the success of American Dream Meadowlands, the underlying understanding of how this assumption was derived is absent.
Key planning documents, such as the transportation management plan, and important conversations with NJT have yet to occur. As such, it is premature to make any conclusions about the effect the expansion will have on NJ’s roads and existing mass transit system and how these effects can successfully be mitigated.
According to the supplemental EIS “Developer is working with NJT and other transportation planning agencies to increase bus service to the Project Site and develop regular rail service to the Meadowlands Sports Complex.” Details about how Triple Five plans to partner with NJT are completely missing. Throughout the supplement EIS Triple Five calls upon NJT to increase bus service and rail service to the Meadowlands. Nowhere in the EIS does it state where the proposed bus routes will be within the project site, how any called upon increase in rail and bus service will be funded, and whether NJT and other agencies are prepared to meet the demands of Triple Five and any such timeline for completion of the mass transit component. NJT’s budget is already stretched and cannot meet demands. This can be seen through the recent rail delays caused by ailing infrastructure. NJT’s budget has shrunk from half the NJDOT’s Capital Program in 2004 to a third in 2012. Triple Five is relying upon bus service out of PANYNJ to service American Dream Meadowlands but PANYNJ recently slashed its capital program which included a much needed garage for PABT. Without express commitment from NJT, PANYNJ and NJDOT and without a timeline for implementing any plans, any such plan by Triple Five remains nothing but speculation.
Another positive aspect of the supplement EIS is that Triple Five “envisions a wide range of programs to be explored and potentially implemented as part of the overall transportation management plan.” However, more details are needed regarding these programs including how each program will affect traffic congestion and how will they be implemented so they will be successful. For example:
The affects that American Dream will have on surrounding roads has not been fully explored. The only “roads” addressed in this supplement EIS are the immediate surrounding access roads and ramps. This is only part of the picture. These cars have to arrive from somewhere. How will roads such as RT 120, RT3, RT17, and the NJTPK be affected by the increase in traffic? Can the roads handle this increased traffic? What about the effects the increased traffic will have on residential areas adjacent to these roads? What effect will the increased traffic have on the road itself? None of these questions have been explored. NJ’s existing infrastructure needs are not being met as half of NJ’s roads are deficient, the added traffic as a result of American Dream will further tax theses deficient roads.
The Traffic Impact Assessment references peak and off-peak times, but nowhere in the TIA does it specific state the hours. Therefore it is impossible to know if the projections are realistic.
In addition, the TIA relies on figures obtained from the Institute of Transportation Engineers for determining increased traffic due to the addition of the Amusement Park. The TIA suggests that the addition of the Amusement Park will increase traffic by less than 1% of the previously permitted traffic volumes for the Xanadu development. TSTC questions the reliability of ITE to make these projections for American Dream Meadowlands. The numbers seem awfully low for an Amusement Park that boasts state of the art adrenaline inducing rides, cutting edge equipment and a water park with cutting edge water rides and attractions including a wave pool, river, spas and speed slides, tube slides, interactive water plan structures and extensive deck areas for lounging. We need to look no further than our own back yard to illustrate this point. Westfield Garden State Plaza Shopping Mall in Paramus, NJ sees approximately 20 million visitors annually. The area is chronically plagued by traffic issues, despite being located at the intersection of three major highways and being served by over ten bus lines. Given an estimated 55 million visitors and year and without a concrete plan and documented commitment from NJDOT and NJT, American Dream Meadowlands will be doomed from the start.
Prior to moving forward with the American Dream Meadowlands, the questions raised by TSTC must be answered. In addition, TSTC recommends the Triple Five partner financially with NJT and PANYNJ by providing a percentage of profits for transit operation costs to supplement the increased service demand on the already taxed transit agencies. Triple Five should also provide local aid contributions to local roadway networks to surrounding municipalities and counties and the state to pay for infrastructure demands.
Tri- State appreciates the offer for dialog with Triple Five and is encouraged by their actions to engage in discussions regarding the impact American Dream Meadowlands will have on NJ’s transportation infrastructure and we look forward to the many meetings in which these concerns will be addressed and progress accomplished.
“If you build it, they will come"…well, only if they can get there.
We will provide more specific written comments by the December 19th deadline.