Since the origins of the term “smart growth” can either be used in lieu of growth management or to mean various things depending on the person, for the purpose of this post I will “‘define” it as it is defined in Contemporary Urban Planning by John Levy. He calls it “a set of issues that will be with us for years to come”(Levy 295). The need for smart growth has come about with concerns of population growth, or sprawl. Two aspects of sprawl, traffic congestion and preservation of the environment are prominent in this discussion. As people move to the suburbs and less dense areas, the dependence on cars to commute becomes more apparent. This dependence results in a less active lifestyle and possible health problems. My town of North Bergen, for example, has a WalkScore of 88. Despite the proximity of public transportation and retail stores, members of the community still feel the need to drive their car to get to a place within walking distance. Their dependence on cars is illustrated in the great inconvenience felt by the ongoing construction of the Pulaski Skyway.
The past two years has put a big strain on travelers used to the constancy of the skyway. Pulaski has been open since Thanksgiving Day in 1932. It is an extension of Route 1 & 9 that spans about 3.5 miles and stands over the Meadowlands and the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers. The route links Jersey City, South Kearny, and Newark and it was created to alleviate traffic and reduce transportation costs. Daily, it carries about 74,000 vehicles excluding trucks. It serves the community far and wide by providing them with a faster mode of transportation to get to jobs, school, family and wherever else they need to go. This isn’t the first round of construction Pulaski has seen, but it is perhaps the most extensive. The discovery of deteriorated steel beams and bridge decking has surprised the renewal crew and they are beginning to work overnight to finish by the 2016 deadline. Although the northbound and southbound traffic lanes have been periodically kept open throughout construction traffic conditions worsen as people are reluctant to find alternate routes. Giving up the convenience of the Skyway or taking public transportation is a distressing thought to people.
Along with the issue of traffic congestion, the environmental impacts of the the skyway itself and it’s construction is evident. The Meadowlands, which supports a portion of the skyway, was once a lush freshwater and saltwater ecosystem. However, continual pollution for deposits of hazardous wastes during construction and civilian waste disposal has turned it into a waste depository. The contaminated water has the ability to harm local marine life as well as land species and the concrete beams themselves rooted in land and water can disturb animal habitats and water flow. The air pollution caused by the cars releasing of greenhouse gases also has an environmental impact. As we continue to create and redevelop, the overall impact that we leave stays around much longer than the temporary fix-ups.
Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. 10th ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.