By: Kimberly Redmond
Morristown is one of five communities in the state to receive a grant this year from Transit Village, a multi-agency initiative led by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit to revitalize and improve areas around transit facilities.
Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that $1 million in grants would be distributed between Morristown ($200,000), Bloomfield ($230,000), Somerville ($130,000), Hackensack ($370,000) and West Windsor ($70,000) to advance their efforts to create safe and walkable areas.
According to Morristown officials, the town will use its funding to perform pedestrian safety improvements along Lafayette Avenue, between Ridgedale Avenue and the NJ Transit train trestle.
The improvements include widening the corridor’s sidewalks with new shade trees, addition of new crosswalk signage and realignment of nearby access roads.
Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty said, “We are pleased to receive this generous grant from Gov. Murphy’s administration.”
“Morristown’s wealth of public transportation services is a valuable asset to our community and plays a large role in making our town an attractive destination for many. We look forward to putting this funding to good use and improve the lives of those using mass transit in Morristown,” he said.
Under the transit village smart growth initiative, towns with transit facilities can pursue designation by developing plans for mixed-use redevelopment that includes housing within a half-mile of transportation.
When the state Department of Transportation launched the program in 1999, the goals included boosting local economies and creating attractive, pedestrian-friendly communities where people can live, shop and work without relying so much on cars.
Transit-oriented development is a response to the urban sprawl and growth of suburbs that occurred over the last century due to the introduction of cars and expansion of highways.
To help slow the loss of open space to development and revive cities that have lost population and wealth, some states have created incentive programs to encourage mixed-use development near mass transit hubs.
In New Jersey, communities that perform revitalization projects around transportation facilities and receive their transit village designation then become eligible for incentives such as priority funding and enhanced eligibility for state Department of Transportation grants, according to the state.
In 1999, Morristown became a transit village, making it one of the first towns in New Jersey to earn the designation.
Altogether, there are 33 municipalities that have been designated over the last two and a half decades, according to the state.
Other northern New Jersey towns that have joined the transit village initiative include South Orange, Bloomfield, Jersey City, Netcong, Elizabeth, Orange Township, Montclair, East Orange, Park Ridge, Irvington and Hackensack.
In a press release announcing the 2019 Transit Village grant recipients, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in a state as densely populated as New Jersey “public transportation is an asset to our commuting public.”
“The Transit Village program provides funding to communities that are committed to revitalizing neighborhoods near existing transit facilities to improve our communities and the quality of life of our residents,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.