Emmanuelle Morgen | February 21, 2022
In March, Hudson County engineers will submit plans for a $19 million redesign of JFK Boulevard East to the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA approved funding for the redesign through the Local Safety Program using Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds.
The county’s original plan for the road complied with its own Complete Streets resolution, which was adopted in 2012 and calls for “safe and convenient access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, motorists, movers of commercial goods and public transit users”. The document’s first article is: “Provide safe and accessible accommodations for existing and future pedestrian, bicycle and public transit facilities.”
And yet between October 2020 and October 2021, the cycle track was removed from the plans.
In its place, the county added hundreds of angled parking spaces–despite data proving the inherent danger and induced congestion of this design. When asked the reason, county engineers replied that three mayors along the route requested the change. Bike Hudson County spoke with two of the mayors, who seemed not to recollect these plans. None of the mayors nor anyone from their administrations attended a December 13, 2021, stakeholder meeting.
JFK Boulevard East is a scenic two-lane road that runs along the crown of the Hudson Palisades with sweeping views of New York City and the Hudson River. Built in 1895 after a group of cyclists took an interest in the route, more than 1200 “wheelmen” paraded up the road on opening day in 1896.
Today, it is the preferred north-south route in Hudson County for people on bikes and scooters, including commuters, recreational riders, and delivery workers. However, the boulevard has been identified as a High Crash Corridor by the NJTPA (North Jersey Transportation Authority). Every day, children and adults who ride a bicycle or other mobility device risk their lives on this roadway.
With more than 700,000 residents, Hudson County is the most densely populated county in the most densely populated state in the nation. There are 600 miles of roadways maintained by Hudson County, yet less than .5 miles of bike lanes.
The four communities most served by Boulevard East–Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg and North Bergen–are on the New Jersey Environmental Justice list of Overburdened Communities. They have a high proportion of households that identify as minority; low-income households; or households with limited English proficiency.