This is Week 2 of our Guest Series from the East Coast Greenway Alliance. You can see last week’s post here.
By Mike Oliva, ECG Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
The East Coast Greenway (ECG) connects 26 municipalities and five counties throughout New Jersey. And greenway development in all of these localities depends on strong partnerships with local and statewide decision-makers in government and the nonprofit sector who are able to help get the project done. Our nonprofit partners include the 6th Street Embankment Coalition of Jersey City, Weequahic Park Association of Newark, Brick City Bike Collective, Tri State Transportation Campaign, Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey, Trust for Public Land, D & R Canal Commission, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, Trenton Cycling Revolution and many more groups which help make the East Coast Greenway a thriving reality throughout the state.
Funding partners, including our hundreds of Garden State members to Dodge to the Helen & William Mazer Foundation to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), make our advocacy and other efforts possible. For instance, recent NJDEP grants enabled us to build kiosks in each of the five counties our route connects.
This picture is from our most recent installation at Weequahic Park in Newark. Kiosks provide information on regional and national ECG topics. We also devote half the panel space for local entities to post information about their activities and events.
Another partner, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) produced a print guide to the ECG through New Jersey in 2008. The guide, the first state guide printed throughout our fifteen state route, contains detailed maps and cue sheets which allow users to travel our route with confidence. NJDEP has also been helpful in providing funding to reprint them since their popularity means we run out of guides regularly. A guide is downloadable here or you can order a print copy by calling our office at 401-789-4625.
Special Focus: Newark to Jersey City
The two largest cities in New Jersey, Newark and Jersey City, haven’t been safely connected for pedestrians and bicyclists for over 100 years. The only manageable way between this relatively short stretch of land (~8 miles) has been by automobile or train. We are working with our partners today to make a safe and accessible connection for this forgotten section and once again link these two important cities.
A generous grant from the Helen & William Mazer Foundation in early 2010 has allowed us to focus on the Newark to Jersey City segment. We have teamed up with the planning, engineering and public works departments of these two cities to develop and sign the route. We have also aligned with the Liberty Water Gap Trail through the region (a 130-mile developing greenway for walkers that stretches from the Delaware Water Gap to Liberty State Park). Working together over the last few months, we established a route that our two groups and the cities of Newark and Jersey City agreed upon.
Over the last few weeks, we installed East Coast Greenway signs along the Newark and Jersey City sections of the route from Newark Penn Station to the Hudson River. Once NJDOT completes two miles of sidewalk improvements in the City of Kearny, this region will have a safe and accessible link for pedestrians and bicycles for the first time in 100 years. Imagine what this seamless connection could do for the people of Newark, Kearny, and Jersey City. It could spur less automobile congestion, less pollution, more healthy and active residents who could use these low-cost routes to get to work, school or other daily activities. Safety and accessibility encourages development. An influx of new residents brings construction and jobs which in turn spurs more local businesses to open up. It is an endless cycle. But this all starts with creating safe, livable communities. This is the work we have started in Newark and Jersey City, but by no means is our work finished.
We hope to improve this connection even further by making on-street improvements to the route that could include bike lanes, sharrows or shared lane marking and other on road safety improvements.
Improving various intersections will also be a major priority. We hope our work encourages the cities of Newark and Jersey City to increase the ease and safety of mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians. Unlike larger automobiles, there is nearly no limit to the numbers of bicyclists and pedestrians a city can accommodate. The addition of a bicycle on a roadway often eases traffic by taking a car off the roadway. Establishing just one safe and accessible route such as the East Coast Greenway through the two cities will give people an option for active transportation and make Newark and Jersey City less car dependent.
The Short-Term and the Long-Term
As major renovation projects come up throughout the region, we actively advocate for improved biking and walking safety. For instance, we are pushing for a dedicated biking and walking lane to be included on the new Portal Bridge. This bridge will cross the Hackensack River and be a safe potential crossing of this river for bicycles and pedestrians. ECGA gathered letters of support from our members and the region’s leaders such as Congressman Sires, Rothman and Senator Lautenberg asking NJ Transit to incorporate the improvements. Until NJ Transit makes this a commitment, we will continue our advocacy on the matter.
While the Portal Bridge will accomplish our long-term routing goals, there is a need to make a safe connection for bicyclists and walkers from Newark to Jersey City today! Imagine if the connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan was closed to bicyclists and pedestrians for the last century. How different would the two cities look? They surely wouldn’t have developed as much of the positive social and economic interdependence visible today.
Through continued partnerships with our allies in government, nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and the public, we will advance our greenway’s progress through the great state of New Jersey and foster the development of more livable, sustainable communities.
This series continues next Wednesday.
Images: East Coast Greenway Alliance