New Jersey Embraces Walkability and Complete Streets

This post is written by our Executive Director, Kate Kraft, who works on a variety of projects in New Jersey including the upcoming Inclusive Health training.

So many people give my adopted home state a bad rap. They joke about our parkway exits and revel in our Bridgegate, but I am here to tell you they are wrong. Despite our outrageous pedestrian injury data, traffic congestion and, in some places, mediocre bike infrastructure, New Jersey has embraced complete streets. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) was one of the first in the nation to adopt an internal complete streets policy. Currently, 134 of New Jersey’s municipalities have some form of complete streets and almost half (48.2%) of New Jersey’s population lives in counties with complete streets policies. We expect to see this increase.

One of the ways we have joined others on the path to Complete Streets is with state-issued guides and resources for professionals and advocates alike.In May of this year, NJDOT released the New Jersey Complete Streets Design Guide. This is the third guide to help implement complete streets in New Jersey. The first two, Making Complete Streets a Reality and A Guide to Creating a Complete Streets Implementation Plan, have been in use for the past five years.

These new design guidelines are a welcomed relief for “county engineers as they are assured that the street treatments are solid and represent the state of the art in calm travel,” according to Janet Heroux, a healthy community consultant and member of Princeton’s bike and pedestrian advisory committee. The guidelines prioritize safety, placemaking and putting people first when it comes to transportation planning. According to Heroux, two strengths of the guidelines include recognizing that posting speed limits doesn’t slow down cars; rather, design must support slower speeds.

The design guidelines were developed with guidance from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, and the Federal Highway Administration. They are intended to be a supplement to existing manuals and include examples of street typologies that illustrate how different treatments can be applied to different context to create a more complete street.

While these guidelines are newly released, there is no doubt this new tool will assist communities across my state and many others in making critical decisions on the best way to implement complete streets. We have heard from numerous advocates, after working tirelessly to get these policies passed, that the implementation has not been what they had hoped. It is our sincere hope that these guidelines can help communities everywhere make crucial implementation decisions. Likewise, for those that are trying to pass complete streets it is good to know that solid engineering information is available for how to turn all types of streets into complete streets.

So watch as we in New Jersey turn our diverse state, with our many dense urban centers and miles of country roads, into a leader in engineering, implementing and completing our streets.