From Bad Traffic to Better Land Use on NJ's Route 202

In recent years, Route 202 in New Jersey has faced a frustrating pair of problems: Traffic was heavy, yet many businesses along the corridor were struggling. A debate over how to alleviate bottlenecks spurred local and state leaders to look for answers that would go beyond easing congestion along the roadway in Hunterdon and Somerset counties. They enlisted Together North Jersey, a regional planning and sustainability initiative of which RPA is a part, to look for ways to bolster economic activity and improve quality of life.

The challenge facing Route 202 was hardly unique. Communities across the state have sought to adapt with varying success to a decline in popularity of strip malls and a shift away from suburban corporate campuses. But the section of Route 202 that traverses the two counties is unusually varied, traveling through residential and commercial areas, abandoned industrial sites and farmland.

Together North Jersey, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and led by the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, selected the Route 202 corridor as one of several places to craft a strategic plan that simultaneously addressed economic, transportation and sustainability issues. RPA led the Route 202 study, one of three diverse projects that RPA completed for Together North Jersey in partnership with NJ Transit. You can see the complete Route 202 report here.

The Route 202 study developed a new land-use vision for the corridor that recommended an increase in multifamily housing; new uses for underutilized office parks and shopping centers such as satellite college facilities, residential development and public spaces; and a greater emphasis on retail and agri-tourism activities around the area’s farms.

The work on Route 202 is one of half a dozen studies RPA has done with Together North Jersey. Others include a look at the benefits of public spaces in downtowns, connecting workforce needs to economic development planning to economic development planning and the potential for Transfer of Development rights to encourage smart growth.