The next CAC meeting will take place on Monday, January 28th at 6:30 PM at Vineland City Hall; 2nd floor Caucus Room. Topics to be covered include the annual reorganization, an update on the Draft Public Involvement Plan (PIP), as well as a presentation by Alan Huff, Project Manager for the SJTPO Cumberland County Bike Ped Safety Action Plan, among other business. View the agenda, here.
The SJTPO Draft FY 2020 UPWP is now available for public review and comment. The document and instructions on how to comment are available at on the UPWP webpage. Comments and questions will be received until 5:00 PM on Friday, February 1, 2019.
The SJTPO partnered with the Cities of Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton to develop a Safety Action Plan for Cumberland County. The first public outreach event will be on Saturday, December 8, 2018, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Cumberland Mall. Additional input events will take place through January 2019. These events will be posted at a later date.
Our Policy Board meeting will take place on Monday, November 26th at 10:00 am; Vineland City Hall – Caucus Room. Discussion items include consultant selection, approving amendments to the FY 2018-2027 TIP, among other topics. View the full agenda, here. We hope to see you there.
“On the Go” Article – 25 Years, 2 Executive Directors, 1 Mission for South Jersey’s Transportation System
An “On the Go” news article is now available to read. It’s an interview article with Tim Chelius, the founding Executive Director and SJTPO’s current Executive Director, Jennifer Marandino, who detail the last 25 years of the Organization. Read the article, here.
2018 is a momentous year, as it marks South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization’s 25th anniversary as the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Prior to its designation in July of 1993, three smaller MPOs served the urbanized areas of southern New Jersey. The idea for the merger was introduced by the leaders of the four counties and made effective under the orders of Governor Jim Florio. The basis of the merger was the idea that one, all-encompassing MPO would benefit from combined federal, state, and local resources, and thus be better able to create a stronger regional approach to solving transportation problems in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties.
Among the first tasks the SJTPO had to address was to create a vision. Mr. Tim Chelius, the founding Executive Director, who retired in 2016, stated, “Our immediate goal was to establish South Jersey as a full partner in the federal transportation planning and capital program process.” To accomplish this feat, SJTPO instituted a Policy Board, which became the governing body of the SJTPO, to comply with new measures within the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). The Act, which was signed into law in December of 1991 by President George H. W. Bush, made changes to regional planning and policies, including giving more decision-making authority to local elected officials. Mr. Chelius noted the specific stipulations to the Policy Board included, “requiring 8 of 11 Policy Board members to be elected officials to guarantee that critical decisions [were] made at the highest levels.”
As SJTPO’s vision expanded and as years passed, the Organization found much success. On the capital programming side, many new projects were awarded funding. The establishment of a long-range transportation plan and a capital project selection process were readily received by the public. Furthermore, Mr. Chelius recalls when SJTPO was approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) as a grantee to receive funding for the robust series of safety education and enforcement programs SJTPO offered to the public. Mr. Chelius stated, “We did quite a lot of traffic safety advocacy outside of planning and engineering over the years and were recognized as a national leader among MPOs for that.” However, with all the high points also came several low points. Not only did SJTPO experience state shut-downs, there were also project delays and years of insecure federal funding. Mr. Chelius acknowledged the low points and stated, “those [were] part of the game, and we adapted.”
Fast forward to the present and SJTPO is now under the leadership of Ms. Jennifer Marandino. Prior to her role as Executive Director, Ms. Marandino served as Team Leader of Capital Programming & Safety. From the start, Mr. Chelius saw great potential in Ms. Marandino, who began in March of 2011. When asked about retiring and entrusting Ms. Marandino with the Executive Director position he held since the inception of SJTPO, Mr. Chelius stated, “I was very happy Jennifer was named Executive Director. She showed tremendous leadership skills and [was] a fabulous engineer.”
Ms. Marandino transitioned into her new role with ease and strived to make changes that would allow for growth and continued success within the Organization. When asked about significant changes made to the Organization, Ms. Marandino mentioned the addition of two new staff members in the latter half of 2017. Ms. Marandino went on to state, “With the two new hires, we were able to take advantage of the bright young talent within southern New Jersey, with both new staff members receiving their educational degrees from Rowan University.” The addition was even more significant because both hires were women, which was exciting, yet rare in a typically male-dominated profession. Two years into her role and Ms. Marandino already has a clear idea of what she hopes SJTPO can accomplish over the next five years. One major area of improvement Ms. Marandino hopes SJTPO will be successful in achieving is strengthening ties with the public in the four-county region. When further asked about this matter, Ms. Marandino explained, “SJTPO has done a good job publicizing our Safety Educational Outreach programs, led by two retired police officers, but we have not done a great job letting the public know who we are and the valuable role we play in our region.” The need to have the public involved in SJTPO’s affairs is vital because when the public thoroughly understands what SJTPO does and how transportation improvements will help them get to where they need to be more efficiently and safely, they are more likely to support the Organization’s efforts. Moreover, Ms. Marandino hopes SJTPO’s subregional partners will take full advantage of the funding sources available to southern New Jersey. The approximately $11.6 million in funding allocated to the region this year is only available through SJTPO. As an engineer, Ms. Marandino acknowledged, “I get excited for projects; when the years of planning are complete, and the public can start seeing the fruits of our labor.” Related to SJTPO subregional partners and the projects they propose, Ms. Marandino advocates for all future resurfacing projects to include components of safety, with the intent to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes. To reduce crashes, Ms. Marandino stated, “Our regional partners will need to include proven safety countermeasures into their projects, balancing the needs of all users of the system.”
To conclude, over the last 25 years, SJTPO has made great progress in the southern New Jersey region. Much of this success can be attributed to Mr. Chelius, Mr. John Petersack, Ms. Monica Butler, and the late Mr. Chet Ambler, all founding members. These founding members were instrumental figures, who
established a trusted and progressive MPO. Despite Mr. Chelius’ retirement in 2016, he remains in touch with SJTPO staff and aids Ms. Marandino when necessary. Ms. Marandino is grateful to have Mr. Chelius’ guidance because as she notes, “We can continue to learn and grow, regardless of where we are in our career.” After all the changes and growth, both Mr. Chelius and Ms. Marandino are proud that the mission of the Organization has remained a constant: to create a transportation system based on regional collaboration that moves people and goods in a safe and efficient manner.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy, the NJ Bike Walk Coalition, and the SJTPO will host a workshop-style summit to spur regional dialogue about a project to establish a unified brand for bike and pedestrian trails across South Jersey. The event is on October 10, 2018 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at Newfield Senior Center. Please RSVP by October 8th, here.
Our Policy Board meeting will take place on Monday, September 24th at 10:00 am; Vineland City Hall – Caucus Room. Discussion items include support for CMAQ performance targets for on-road mobile source emissions reductions and adopting modifications to the RFP template. View the full agenda, here. We hope to see you there.