Redeveloping Communities Can Result from ARC Tunnel Investment

Jun 12, 2009   //   by PlanSmart NJ   //   Speaks Out Blog  //  Comments Off on Redeveloping Communities Can Result from ARC Tunnel Investment

by Dianne Brake

The proposed $8.3 billion ARC Tunnel will double the capacity of New Jersey’s transit system, accessible to three quarters of the State’s population. This new transit capacity could set us on the path toward sustainability, including meeting New Jersey’s ambitious 2050 Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction targets by reducing auto trips.

It could add economic growth capacity, which is currently limited by auto-dependency and congested highways. It could encourage housing investment in “smart” locations, turning the tide of sprawl which had carried much of New Jersey’s labor force to Pennsylvania and other cheaper locations.

Furthermore, the doubling of New Jersey’s transit capacity could stimulate the regeneration of countless communities that have been abandoned or neglected in favor of suburban sprawl for decades. The increased capacity could provide growth opportunities in places stymied by gridlock and new vitality in places plagued by poverty. It could improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people throughout the State.

If the construction of the ARC Tunnel achieves these results, it will truly be worth this huge public investment.

BUT, who is in charge of making sure that these results are achieved? We know that these questions have not even been raised in connection to the ARC Project or any of the other major investments made under the current economic stimulus package. None of these benefits will be achieved unless they are demanded by residents and consciously agreed and implemented by the coordinated actions of all levels of government.

Without the State taking action to reform its land use decision-making system, any new economic development planned for these new transit-friendly locations will be mired in New Jersey’s regulatory morass and obstructed by out-dated ideas about growth, housing and transportation.

As the most transit-friendly state in the nation, New Jersey could be the first to demonstrate how proximity, extensive new service (commuter trains and BRT to local shuttles and jitneys), carbon-trading and other strategies can make New Jersey more sustainable. This in turn can create a market for jobs and housing in places that had suffered from a weak market for decades.

PlanSmartNJ believes that the ARC Tunnel is one of the most strategic projects that could be advanced right now. The Tunnel will have the power to transform hundreds of communities and change how thousands of people travel throughout the State. The construction of the ARC Tunnel will create thousands of jobs for its planning and construction, and could – if leveraged as PlanSmartNJ advocates – put New Jersey on the path to a more sustainable future.

PlanSmartNJ’s June 11, 2009conference will explore how to leverage the investment in the ARC Tunnel and other new transit projects to spark successful redevelopment and regional equity. It is not too late to sign up and earn 5 CM Credits. Please visit our website to register today.

Dianne Brake is currently President of PlanSmart NJ, Founded in 1968, PlanSmartNJ is a Trenton-based statewide not-for-profit research and advocacy organization that advances the quality of community life through sound land use planning and regional cooperation. PlanSmart NJ aims to renew the landscape so that communities in the future will have a sustainable economy and environment, based on resource efficiency and social equity. Email her at

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