Top 8 Traffic Stories of 2013
It's traditional at the end of the year to look back over the top stories in a variety of fields. I've covered traffic in the New Jersey area since the 1970s and I don't recall ever seeing a listing of the top traffic stories of the year so I thought I'd take a shot at reviewing some of the top traffic and transit stories of 2013.
In no particular order, the stories are:
The state's controversial red-light camera pilot program was in the news throughout the year. In August, Assemblyman Delcan O'Scanlon (R) released videos showing the timing of yellow lights at many camera-equipped intersections was shorter than legally-allowed. Governor Christie suspended the program to make sure they were calibrated but his advice for drivers was to not go through red lights. Both sides, meanwhile, ran advertising campaigns to make their cases that the lights were for safety or a source of revenue. This issue will likely continue into 2014.
In September, the closure of two toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge grew from a local story to one with national implications. A political appointee, and former high school classmate of Governor Christie, David Wildstein, ordered two-thirds of the lanes that service local streets from Fort Lee to be shut and told the manager of the bridge to not tell Fort Lee officials. The week long closure resulted in massive delays in the borough. Democrats questioned if the closure was political retribution because the Democrat mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, didn't endorse the governor's re-election bid. The closures were claimed to be part of a traffic study. The controversy forced the resignation of Wildstein and Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.
New Jersey's transportation network continued its recovery from Sandy in 2013. In January PATH resumed 24/7 service on part of its service, while in November the historic waiting room of Hoboken Terminal opened for the first time in over a year. In February, Route 35 reopened through Manatoloking, restoring a vital shore roadway.
NJ Transit, accused of not taking proper precautions to protect rail cars and engines during the storm, was the subject of both legislative hearings and news stories looking at what they knew before the storm and what they decided to do with that information. An independent study concluded vulnerability assessments are needed for facilities including maintenance yards and called for flood models for all key facilities.
New Jersey and America's shortest commuter rail line became a little shorter in August when the Princeton Dinky line was cutback about 460 feet to accommodate Princeton University's plans for an Arts and Transit project.
Crashes are a daily part of life on New Jersey's highways but one that stands out was one on the Turnpike that forced the closure of the roadway for nearly five hours. A bus was rear-ended by a dump truck in the northbound lanes near Interchange 7A in Hamilton Township. Several cars were also involved. There were several injuries but no fatalities from the incident that resulted in long delays not only on the Turnpike but on alternate routes.
For years, NJ Transit's River Line and Atlantic City Line crossed each other but making a trip using both lines was a challenge. In October that changed with the opening of the Pennsauken Transit Center. The station has a stop on the River Line on the lower level and a platform on the upper level for the Atlantic City Line making connections much easier.
Route 130 was named the state's most dangerous road for pedestrians for the fifth year in a row by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Burlington County law enforcement officials began an 18-month program in May to increase safety on the highway.