2010-08-05 / Front Page

County guide promotes access for walkers, cyclists

Freeholders approve Complete Streets policy for municipalities
BY JACQUELINE HLAVENKA Staff Writer
Monmouth County has developed a county-wide plan to encourage municipalities to develop safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists and other modes of transportation.

The county became the first in the state to adopt a “Complete Streets” policy when the Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the guidelines on July 22.

“It is basically a blueprint for all of the county departments involved in road projects and bridge projects,” said Freeholder John D’Amico, who drafted the resolution.

“Whether they are new projects, retrofitting or rehabilitation, they will follow a checklist of accommodations for pedestrians and bicycle users, such as accessible sidewalks.”

D’Amico said in an interview on July 30 that the policy was modeled after the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) Complete Streets policy, which provides towns with a guide for planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings and transit amenities.

“It is a comprehensive, integrated and connected multimodal network that we offer to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to get to places of employment, educational institutions, retail, transit centers, recreation and public facilities,” said D’Amico, who also serves as the county representative to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

Under the resolution, each street has specific needs depending on the structure of the municipality. Whether the area is a borough, a township or a city, the governing bodies can choose to work with the county on establishing a procedure to evaluate individual projects.

“These things should be considered in each project where county jurisdiction applies,” D’Amico said. “For sidewalks, you need the cooperation of the municipalities because it is the municipalities that construct the sidewalks, so that would be a joint agreement.”

In rural areas like Holmdel Township or Tinton Falls, paved shoulders or a multiuse path would be considered for all new construction and reconstruction projects on roadways. The county engineer and planning board could also determine if there is a desire by locals for bicycle or pedestrian elements on local roads and sidewalks.

However, in cities and dense suburbs like Long Branch or Red Bank, improvements may include new bus lanes, curb ramps, crosswalks, countdown pedestrian signals, signs, curb extensions, pedestrianscale lighting and bike lanes.

Safe routes to public transportation, schools, trail crossings and transit villages would also be considered.

“In a developed area, what we would be talking about would be repaving of county roads and also reconstruction of bridges,” D’Amico said. “When those projects are undertaken, there will be a dialogue with the municipality if, for example, the county highway passes through an area where there is a gap in the sidewalk. If the municipality is interested in working with the county, the municipality will probably be able to save money by jointly funding the project with the county and letting the county install the sidewalks as well.”

According to the resolution, the policy will include all road, bridge and building projects currently funded through Monmouth County’s Capital Program.

Other projects, however, would require outside funding. D’Amico said the resolution puts the county in a position to qualify for grants for projects that will improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“We are the first county to adopt a county resolution that is based on what the state is encouraging the counties to do,” he said. “The policy is basically to provide safe and accessible accommodations for existing and future pedestrian and bicycle riders and transit facilities.”

According to the resolution, exemptions to the new policy do exist, including no new construction on county- and state-designated routes such as scenic roads, historic or cultural byways. Other exemptions to the program include environmental constraints and right-of-way limitations.

The county engineer can also determine if a particular project has a detrimental social or environmental impact, which can outweigh the need for new accommodations.

D’Amico said the freeholders are aim ing to encourage walkable commercial and residential development in order to reduce carbon emissions in the county.

“In 2008, I sponsored a resolution establishing a greenhouse gas reduction program for the county and creating a greenhouse gas reduction committee,” he said. “This fits in with the whole policy orientation of trying to encourage people to move around without an automobile, which consumes foreign oil and generates greenhouse gas emissions.”

Combining retail, residential and walkable development — a concept known as new urbanism — is part of a long-term county plan to revitalize its urban and rural municipalities.

“We want to encourage more and more people to walk to destinations or to bike to destinations,” D’Amico said.

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