(This article is reposted from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s NJTPA Update Blog.  You can subscribe at www.njtpa.org)

Using greenways to promote healthy lifestyles; helping municipalities complete floodplain management activities; training the workforce for available jobs; and helping communities enact Complete Streets policies are among the ideas four Together North Jersey (TNJ) task forces discussed in recent meetings as potential projects in the region.

The task forces are organized to focus on the four themes that were identified in the 2015 TNJ regional sustainability plan: Competitive, Livable, Efficient and Resilient. The Livable and Resilient task forces met Sept. 29 at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority office in Newark. The Competitive and Efficient task forces met Oct. 6 at the NJTPA.

Formed in 2013, TNJ is a consortium of municipalities, counties, educational institutions, businesses and non-profits that used a federal grant to develop the first sustainable development plan for northern and central New Jersey. The NJTPA and Rutgers provided leadership for development of the plan and are now helping the task forces pursue strategies to implement the plan recommendations.

Each task force was assigned focus areas and is now working to develop a list of potential projects to address these items. The focus areas are:

Livable:
• Create vibrant places and neighborhoods that will attract and retain residents, workers and visitors.
• Expand and diversify the region’s housing supply to meet current and future demand
• Address barriers to housing mobility, increase access to areas of high opportunity and affirmatively further fair housing policies region-wide
• Create a system of public education that prepares all students for the 21st century economy
• Improve health outcomes for our region’s residents
• Revitalize and strengthen communities by expanding arts and cultural opportunities

Resilient:
• Enhance Resiliency of the region’s communities and infrastructure
• Improve stewardship of natural agricultural lands, open space, parks and historic resources
• Manage water systems to improve water quality and supply

Competitive
• Create/retain well-paying jobs by supporting growth in region’s key industries
• Strengthen region’s economy by building on existing assets and infrastructure
• Align workforce training with industry needs

Efficient
• Locate most new housing and commercial development in places with existing and planned infrastructure
• Connect people and places with safe, convenient and reliable transportation
• Transition to a clean energy economy

Members of the Livable Task Force discussed the possibility of creating a database of cultural arts resources in the region and working with healthcare systems to create a statewide “prescription fitness program,” that would encourage patients to get out and walk or bike the state’s various greenways and public spaces.

The Resilient Task Force discussed ways to help counties and municipalities navigate the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, which awards points for improvements that mitigate flooding. Communities that complete floodplain mitigation projects can help lower flood insurance premiums for property owners in their municipality. The process is complex, so several task force members suggested compiling a list of best practices and holding a workshop.

The Competitive Task Force spoke about the need to train job seekers for the available positions, including working with community colleges and vocational programs. The panel offered its support to the North Jersey Partners Regional Workforce Collaboration, which is working on best practices for workforce development boards in the state. The group also spoke about the need to use transportation to connect people with available jobs.

The Efficient Task Force discussed helping municipalities interested in implementing Complete Streets policies navigate the process, including the creation of a best practices guide and workshops. The panel also spoke about the NJTPA’s Alternative Fuel Vehicles Study, which will result in the creation of readiness plans for three pilot communities and a guide for municipalities that want to encourage the use of alternative fuel vehicles.

For additional information on Together North Jersey or to join a task force, visit togethernorthjersey.com.

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