May 11th - May 17th, 2007
Tunnel Project Approved for New Jersey Commuters
May 15th: New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's proposal to exchange $1 billion in expected federal funding for roads to help build a commuter rail tunnel were approved this week by the board of North Jersey Transportation, according to a report in Metro New York.
The Trans-Hudson Tunnel project would link New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River and alleviate highway congestion for commuters. According to Metro's report, New Jersey has already pledged $500 million from its Transportation Trust Fund, and the Port Authority of New York has pledged up to $2 billion.
The two-track tunnel, called "Access to the Region's Core" or ARC, would double commuter rail capacity between the two states. Construction on the project could begin as soon as 2009 with an expected completion date of 2015 or 2016. The project is only awaiting final approval of its federal environmental impact statement before the next steps toward development can begin.
EDC Reorganization Underway
May 15th: According to a report in the Crain's Insider, the Bloomberg administration is reorganizing the Economic Development Corporation's senior staff. The changes come on the heels of Senior Vice President of Transportation Joan McDonald's resignation last week. McDonald's departure came shortly after Executive Vice President Kate Ascher's resignation. McDonald has joined the Rell administration in Connecticut, and Ascher is now with Vornado Realty Trust.
Cash Free Tolls Under Consideration
May 16th: In an attempt to find a better solution for commuters, Port Authority Executive Director Anthony Shorris said this week that he will consider financing a study to look at removing tollbooths from the tunnel, according to a report in the New York Times. Shorris wants to ascertain the impact that removing tolls would have on traffic and pricing.
According to the Times' report, going cashless and asking drivers to use electronic E-ZPass would introduce what is called "dynamic pricing." The new pricing system would mean charging higher tolls during peak hours and lower tolls when traffic is lighter.
In order to go forward with this project, the Port Authority will have to determine how to remove the current booths and install electronic equipment. It will also need to show exactly how traffic will be improved and address what to do with the 185 unionized workers that currently work the tolls. This project does not conflict with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal for a congestion pricing system. It is, as Shorris describes it, part of the same plan to address the 1 million population increase the city is expecting over the next 20 years.
Scaffold Law Nailed Down During Safety Week
May 16th: According to a report in Real Estate Weekly, the New York City Department of Buildings formed a partnership with the State Occupational Safety and Health Administration to finalize details regarding scaffolding safety legislation. The adjustments to the city's scaffolding law came after last year's reported rates of accidents spiked by 82 percent, including six fatalities.
Developments to improve scaffolding safety include an educational campaign to teach workers about scaffold safety, more scaffold inspections, investments in safety units, and increased penalties for violations, among other measures.
Downtown Alliance Releases Annual State of Lower Manhattan Report
May 16th: The Alliance for Downtown New York has released its fourth annual State of Lower Manhattan report. Presented at the Downtown Alliance's annual meeting, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the Lower Manhattan business district, including commercial, retail, residential, transportation, and tourism sectors.
The report announced that Lower Manhattan has retained its place as an attractive destination for business, residents, and visitors, with many of its business sectors flourishing and tourism on the rise. Adding to that the large number of construction projects, transit improvements, and residential and business developments planned, the report found Lower Manhattan poised to become one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods. To download a copy of the report, click here.
Union Leaders Demand Safer Construction Laws
April 17th: Construction safety has been an increasing cause for concern for many in the city over the past year. According to reports this week, contractors and hardhat union leaders have joined with City Council Member Erik Martin Dilan to push for a new penalty system that would ban repeat offenders from obtaining building permits for five years.
Real Estate Weekly reported on the matter this week, explaining the new penalty is part of a comprehensive set of construction industry reforms that includes strengthened safety laws. The goal of imposing such a penalty is to better protect the public and city construction workers. Building Trades Employers' Association President Louis Coletti told Real Estate Weekly, "With New York City experiencing a record boom in construction, it is imperative that we find a solution to ensure worker safety for all in the industry."
The legislation would go a long way in standardizing safety requirements, officials say. Construction safety has been a top priority for the New York City Department of Buildings, and this is just one of the latest measures to improve working conditions for the city's many construction workers as well as the public.