NJ TRANSIT Adopts Plan for Statewide Public Transportation Improvements

WSP USA co-authored a five-year capital strategy designed to upgrade bus, rail and light rail service throughout New Jersey.

For the first time in its history, the largest statewide transit system in the U.S. is implementing a multi-year capital plan that will strategize and prioritize investments to improve public transportation infrastructure and facilities throughout New Jersey.

NJ TRANSIT 5-Year Capital PlanThe New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT) is setting in motion the first in a series of rolling five-year capital plans to identify the investments needed across all public transportation modes over the next two decades.

“There is a particular need to invest in the bus system, which carries a majority of NJ TRANSIT’s daily riders,” said Daniel Baer, WSP USA project manager. “NJ TRANSIT is committed to investing in capital programs that will maintain the quality and reliability of the transit system. This plan addresses all bus, rail and light rail service throughout the state.”

WSP co-authored the five-year strategic plan on behalf of NJ TRANSIT. It was released by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on June 8.

WSP created the evaluation methodology for prioritizing investments, prepared detailed project sheets for each major project and program, produced an executive summary for the public, and assisted in the development of the website.

While WSP has worked with NJ TRANSIT on mode specific projects and plans, this is its first effort to establish an ongoing five-year capital program, based on NJ TRANSIT’s 10-year strategic plan.

“Capital investment allows for a continuous state of good repair and targeted expansion of the system and is essential for a safe and cost-effective transit system that performs to the level that our customers expect,” according to the plan.

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The NJ TRANSIT Capital Plan will prioritize what is needed to meet state of good repair requirements for infrastructure and equipment.

Priorities

Investments are being prioritized in accordance with the goals in NJ TRANSIT’s NJT2030 strategic plan and performance indicators. In addition to meeting state of good repair requirements for infrastructure and equipment, the plan focuses on customer service and accessibility – particularly to the disabled, low-income communities and residents without cars – system enhancement and expansion, new technology, equity, system resilience and greenhouse gas emissions.

The five-year capital plan incorporates the five goals established in the NJT2030 strategic plan:

  • Ensure the reliability and continued safety of the NJ TRANSIT system.
  • Deliver a high-quality experience for all customers with their entire journey in mind.
  • Power a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all communities in the region.
  • Promote a more sustainable future for the planet.<.li>
  • Build an accountable, innovative and inclusive organization that delivers for New Jersey.

WSP will work with NJ TRANSIT over the next five years to continue to update the plan.

As part of the overall improvements, NJ TRANSIT is launching several major rail projects, including the $1.8 billion Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River in Hudson County, the Raritan River Bridge replacement project in Middlesex County, and the construction of a new Elizabeth Train Station for the Northeast Corridor.

WSP is construction manager for the Elizabeth Train Station project and is serving as the project management office (PMO) for NJ TRANSIT’s Enterprise Asset Management Program in support of the capital program.

“Targeted investments in selected interlockings, bridges and stations are critical to improving the reliability of rail service,” Baer said. “Achieving this goal successfully begins with securing adequate funding, procuring and administering a new capital program and prioritizing investments to satisfy key stakeholders.”

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One of the signature projects for resiliency and sustainability initiatives is the Hoboken Terminal, which includes supporting rail yard facilities and lines servicing the station.

Signature Initiative

WSPs development of project goals also included resiliency and sustainability initiatives. One of the signature projects in this regard is the Hoboken Terminal, which includes supporting rail yard facilities and lines servicing the station.

“The rehabilitation of the Hoboken Terminal will be a major resiliency effort, developing facilities and infrastructure that will support NJ TRANSIT’s commitment to making its services more sustainable,” Baer said.

The station’s 17 tracks serve as the terminus for several NJ TRANSIT lines, and is a hub of significant transit activity, including PATH, bus and ferry service. A rail yard, fueling facility and other critical infrastructure pieces near the station ensure efficient service for commuters.

The planned improvements will enhance the facility’s resiliency in the face of storm surges, such as those experienced by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. These upgrades will also enable the station to reach its full potential in relieving crowded conditions for commuters who cross the Hudson River for work.

“Superstorm Sandy showed the station’s environmental vulnerabilities,” Baer said. “The terminal was flooded with five feet of stormwater and was closed for more than two months for repairs and restoration as a result. Without significant infrastructure investment here, the station will remain vulnerable to threats from similar storms.”

Resiliency plans include elevating the station to mitigate the impacts of storm surge, extreme weather events and seasonal flooding. It would be approached with sensitivity to the historic character of the existing station building.

NJ TRANSIT is also planning to implement a modernized positive train control across its entire rail network, to improve the safety of the rail system.

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NJ TRANSIT is also planning to implement improved safety features, such as positive train control across its entire rail network.

Additional Investments

Preparation to transition to a zero-emission electrified fleet of buses is also part of the plan and extends beyond just buying new buses. This investment considers the rehabilitation, expansion and replacement of the facilities critical to the introduction of the new technology, including new and improved bus garages and maintenance facilities, new technology to repair and manage the new bus fleet, enhanced access to electrical power. The investment extends to “all levels of the bus ecosystem.”

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the plan to modernize the network includes investment in buses that are easier to maintain and clean for the protection of commuter health.

Modernization of NJ TRANSIT’s 16 bus garages, which house and maintain a fleet of more than 2,300 buses, would also be upgraded to maintain a modern, healthy network. Electrifying the bus fleet “would improve air quality and health in neighboring communities by reducing bus emissions.”

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NJ TRANSIT’s 16 bus garages, which house a fleet of more than 2,300 buses, would be upgraded to maintain a modern, healthy network.

Renewed Focus

Since it would not be possible or practical to construct all projects at once, the plan helps NJ TRANSIT prioritize projects and programs by identifying a proposed expenditure level for each year. Projects with the highest state-of-good-repair needs were given first priority. Projects already in development that could be enacted quickly and demonstrated value in improving the performance and reliability of the transit system were also advanced in the plan.

“This capital plan is another step in NJ TRANSIT’s transition to a more comprehensive project identification and prioritization approach,” according to the executive summary.

So far, public response to the plan has been favorable.

“NJ TRANSIT’s customers welcome the renewed focus on customer facing facilities, rolling stock and communications contained in the plan,” Baer said. “The plan has been positively received by the administration, the legislature, industry groups and advocates.”

By investing in these services and improving its system, NJ TRANSIT will be able to drive growth in the state.

The work WSP has done on the strategic plan has been particularly satisfying for Baer on a personal level.

“Being a citizen of the state and a regular user of the system, it is satisfying to know that the efforts made by the WSP team will have wide reaching impacts on the lives of our fellow citizens, and will improve the quality of commute for so many,” Baer said.

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