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“Local Street Repair Cost” Paper at 2017 TRB Meeting

Peters, Peters and Gordon to present paper at TRB

Carl E. Peters, P.E., and co-authors Jonathan R. Peters, Ph.D. and Cameron Gordon, Ph.D. will be presenting their paper “Who should pay for the local street? Who does? A survey of New Jersey municipalities” at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC, in January 2017.

About TRB

According to its website, The Transportation Research Board (TRB) “is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which provides independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.”The mission of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) is to promote innovation and progress in transportation through research.”

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain New Jersey’s Local Streets?

The paper, which is based upon a study the team performed for the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers, quantifies the cost to keep New Jersey’s local streets in good repair. The report establishes the cost to maintain an average mile of a local street in New Jersey for a sixty year life span, It then projects the annual repair repair cost for all municipally maintained roads by multiplying the cost per mile by the total length of streets in municipal jurisdiction. The resulting annual need is a staggering $1.2 billion.

How is Transportation Funded in New Jersey?

The paper includes an analysis of the current revenue sources available for the upkeep of municipal streets, along with State and County roadways and New Jersey Transit.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) 2010 listing of roadway mileage by jurisdiction shows that approximately 29,000 of the state’s 39,000 miles of roadway’s are maintained by municipalities. In 2014, State and Federal Aid to municipalities for local street repairs was less than $100 million. The remaining revenues to fix local streets must come from municipal budget sources, primarily property taxes.

Are Current Funding Methods Fair?

The paper raises the question “Who benefits from local streets?” as well as “Do all of the parties that benefit from local streets pay their fair share of maintenance costs?”

Only about 3% of New Jersey’s Transportation funding from state and federal sources is distributed to municipal governments.(see graph below for the period 2006 -2016),

NJ Transportation Funding Graph

NJ Transportation Funding 2006 -2016

New Jersey Department of Transportation records indicate that in 2014 approximately 15% of average daily traffic was carried by local streets.

The network of New Jersey’s municipal roads is extensive. Most vehicular trips have either an origin or destination on a local street. Local streets serve emergency services, commerce and other regional travel. Municipalities must maintain over 70% of New Jersey’s road mileage. These local streets carry over 15% of the vehicular trips per day. While noting that State and County roads are generally wider and carry larger volumes of truck traffic, it appears that New Jersey’s municipalities are being shortchanged when it comes to the distribution of funds for transportation.

What does the future hold for funding of local street repairs?

This paper has identified that we have much work to do to address efficient funding for local streets, sidewalks and curbs in particular. It is clear that the deferred maintenance and ongoing investment challenges are extensive and that the funding gap is massive. Yet these needs are largely ignored on the state and federal level; thus these costs and problems are left to the local governments. Like many state and federal unfunded mandates, the local governments then have to struggle to find funding sources to address problems that are not always just local in scope.



New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference 2016

Carl E. Peters will be attending the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City on Nov. 15 – 18, 2016 as a representative of the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers (NJSME)  and the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors (NJSPLS). Peters is currently President-Elect of NJSPLS and a member of NJSME’s Executive Committee.

On Tuesday afternoon Carl will be manning the NJSPLS booth #1803. Please stop by to discuss any land surveying questions that you have.

On Wednesday, Carl will be participating in an assortment of NJSME functions including: the Past President’s breakfast, the annual business meeting, the awards luncheon. At 2:30, in Room 313, he will be attending a joint meeting of NJSME and the Institute of Local Government Attorneys – an annual program which always sparks a lively discussion. He will conclude the day ant the annual meeting of the NJ Planning Officials in Room 314.

A discussion of Change Orders, Contract Closeout and Bid Documents will be held at 10:45 in Room 309 at a joint meeting of NJSME and the Governmental Purchasing Association of NJ.

Please e-mail me at if you will be attending the conference and would like to chat.

NJ Municipal Road Repairs – Where’s the Money?

Municipal road repair needs are staggering

New Jersey’s municipalities need help. They’re in need of an adequate, steady source of funding for their road repairs. A recent report prepared for the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers estimates the annual need for municipal road repairs at almost $1.3 billion. New Jersey’s municipalities, who are constrained by a 2% tax cap, cannot adequately maintain their streets without both more funding from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and a more equitable way of sharing those revenues with the counties.

On June 23, 2016 committees of both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly approved bills to provide new revenues for the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund which supports Department of Transportation (NJDOT), New Jersey Transit (NJT) and County and Municipal road, bridge and mass transportation projects. Providing the capital to maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure is vital to New Jersey’s economic health

Local Aid to Municipalities is Meager

Unfortunately for Municipalities, they are at the end of the line when it comes to distribution of revenues from the Transportation Trust Fund. For the past ten years New Jersey Municipalities have received only about 3% of the state’s transportation funding (see graph below).

NJ Trans Funding 2006 -16

This fact is especially troubling to local Mayors, Administrators and Engineers who are responsible for the maintenance of New Jersey’s more than 29,000 miles of municipal roadways representing 75% of the centerline road miles in the entire state.

New Jersey’s Centerline Miles of Roads based upon 2010 NJDOT Inventory

  1. NJDOT                  2,323 = 6%
  2. Authority                   411 = 1%
  3. County                   6,449 = 17%
  4. Municipal           29,408 = 75%
  5. Park                           649 =   2%
  6. Total                    39,241 = 100%

Local Roads don’t get enough funding from the Transportation Trust Fund

Local roads (county and municipal) carry over 50% of the traffic in New Jersey every day. Presumably, at least 50% of the fuel consumed in New Jersey is used while driving on local roads. Thus 50% of the fuel taxes are generated by vehicles travelling on local roads. Why isn’t 50% of the fuel tax revenue distributed to municipal and county governments to maintain their respective portions of New Jersey’s transportation network. Unfortunately, Governor Christie doesn’t believe that municipal and county governments are deserving of a share of the fuel taxes collected.

State and Federal Aid to Municipalities and Counties

Since 2009, annual allocations of $78.75 million each have been made for County and Municipal road repairs. The counties have also received $25 million annually for bridge maintenance (a task that is predominantly a county responsibility). Counties also get a much larger share of federal aid – $140 million annually, while municipalities get only $10 million annually.

Unfortunately for municipal governments, this cost sharing formula does not reflect the actual cost to maintain New Jersey’s Municipal Road network. Ideally, municipal and county governments should receive sufficient state and federal funding so that the portion of road repair costs financed through property taxes is similar.

Property Tax Distribution Rates

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs reports that the state’s 2015 property taxes were distributed as follows:

  • School Taxes            52.3%
  • County Taxes           18.1%
  • Municipal Taxes       29.6%

While the ratio of Municipal to County Road Mileage is 4.56 to 1, the ratio of Municipal to County tax levies is only 1.64 to 1.

Potential Cost Sharing Alternatives

Cost Split based upon Road Mileage

One option would be to apportion TTF local aid revenues between counties and municipalities based upon the length of roads within each jurisdiction, or:

  • 81% for municipalities
  • 19% for counties.

County Freeholders, Engineers and Executives would likely argue that such an allocation of funds was unfair – since county roadways are often wider and carry greater daily traffic volumes than do municipal streets. Such factors increase construction costs and the needed frequency of road repairs.

Cost Sharing Considering Traffic Volumes and Weighted Road Mileage

It may, therefore, be fairer to establish a method of sharing local aid that considers traffic loads as well as roadway length and also gives county roads a mileage bonus to account for their greater average width.

In this alternative, each of these two components for the sharing of local aid – Traffic and Weighted Mileage is used to allocate one half of the local aid funds.

Traffic Sharing Factor

  • 50% County, and
  • 50% Municipal

Weighted Mileage Sharing Factors (Using an allowance for the average county road being 40′ wide versus 30′ average width for municipal roads)

  • Municipal Mileage Factor (MMF) = Municipal Miles/(1.33*County Miles + Municipal Miles) = 29,408/37,985 = 77%
  • County Mileage Sharing Factor (CMF) = 1.33*County Miles/(1.33*County Miles + Municipal Miles) = 8,577/37,985 = 23%

Local Aid Sharing  Formula based upon both Traffic and road inventory

  • County Share = (Traffic + CMF)/2 =      (50% + 23%)/2 = 36.5%
  • Municipal Share = (Traffic + MMF)/2 =  (50% + 77%)/2 = 63.5%

This proposal would:

  • Provide immediate property tax relief,
  • Help to support adequate municipal road repairs, and
  • Distribute fuel tax revenues evenly over roads that were used to generate them.

What do you think?



New Jersey Population Trends – North, South and Central 1840 – 2010

Map of North, South and Central New Jersey

The three regions of New Jersey as defined to develop the charts in this post

I’ve been pondering the differences between North Jersey, South Jersey and even Central Jersey for some time now. The more I look into the matter the more questions I have. It doesn’t seem enough just to identify regions and their differences but rather also to ask why the distinctions came to be.

In my last post, “Possibly the Split is East Jersey,West Jersey, not North Jersey, South Jersey“,I discussed the origins of two Jerseys — East and West — during Colonial times.  East Jersey related more to the Hudson River and New York, while West Jersey identified more with the Delaware River and Philadelphia. Transportation by water – especially the movement of goods – was essential to the development of the area. In the east, development thrived along the west bank of the Hudson River, Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill. Camden, Trenton and Burlington grew along the east bank of the Delaware Bay (and River) from the Atlantic Ocean to the falls near Trenton where the river was not navigable. The population along the Atlantic shoreline was sparse due to the lack of safe harbors and anchorages for sailing vessels. It wasn’t until about the end of the first quarter of the 19th century that a maritime connection was made between the upper Delaware River and New York —  the Morris Canal. At about the same time, the Delaware and Raritan Canal opened providing a shortcut between New York and Trenton and Philadelphia.

Table for Statistics of Low Population Density Counties

Statistics for New Jersey Counties with a population density of less than 500 persons per square mile.

One of the distinctions often made between North Jersey and South Jersey is that “North Jersey is more crowded”. While that may be true of some of the North Jersey counties, it’s not true for all. Some of the Counties that I have described as belonging to North Jersey have population densities that are remarkably similar to other counties in the most southern part of the state. It seemed to me that Jersey population trends warranted some looking into. I started by reviewing the New Jersey County Statistics that I had gathered for my first post “Where am I — North Jersey, South Jersey, or Possibly Even Central Jersey?”  What I discovered was that some of the counties in North and Central Jersey had population densities as low or lower than those in the very southern portion of the state. The following table shows that seven counties have population densities of under 500 persons per square mile. So if the common wisdom “North Jersey is more densely populated than South Jersey” is not completely accurate, what else may we determine about New Jersey by the way its population has changed? What were the changes anyway?


Graph of New Jersey Population Changes by Region from 1790 - 2010

Graph of New Jersey Population Changes by Region from 1790 – 2010

Luckily, I didn’t need to tabulate all of the New Jersey population data myself. I first came upon New Jersey Population Trends 1790 – 2010 — a nifty excel spreadsheet created by none other than the NJ Department of Labor. From this data I was able to develop the graphs below, which portray the New Jersey population changes by region and the regional changes by county. The first graph shows that the North Jersey population grew earlier than that of either South Jersey or Central Jersey, who maintained similar growth patterns until about 1860 (although the Central Jersey population was slightly higher), when Central Jersey’s growth rate increased at pace that has exceeded South Jersey through the latest census. North Jersey expanded the most quickly beginning in the mid-19th century and continuing until about 1960 when its population dipped for approximately twenty years. The North still leads in population but Central Jersey continues to narrow the gap.


Graph of New Jersey Population Variations in North, South and Central Regions

Graph of New Jersey Population Variations in North, South and Central Regions

The second chart shows the regional trends in New Jersey population as a percentage of the total number of people living in the state. At the time of the first census the three regions claimed similar portions of the state’s residents – North and Central Jersey with approximately 35% and South Jersey with almost 30%.  Almost immediately, North Jersey’s population took off while the South and Central Jersey shares of the pie declined. The disparity reached its peak in the early part of the 20th century when Central Jersey began to close the population gap. South Jersey has not kept pace with the other regions and now contains only 20% of the New Jersey population. That, of course doesn’t tell the complete story — growth within the regions was far from uniform — creating a need in me to develop additional graphs.


The graphs that follow show changes in population by county from 1790 – 2010. I’ve grouped them by region in the hope that the display of information would be clearer. Please note that the county population data prior to the 1860 census is not completely accurate (sufficient, I believe, for this discussion), as it has not been adjusted for the following jurisdictional changes.

  •  Warren County was incorporated in November 1824, from portions of Sussex County.
  • Atlantic County was created in February 1837, from portions of Gloucester County.
  • Passaic County was created in February 1837, from portions of both Bergen County and Essex County.
  • Mercer County was founded February 1838, from portions of surrounding counties.
  • Hudson County was formed from Bergen in 1840.
  • Camden County was formed in March 1844, from portions of Gloucester County.
  • Ocean County was established in 1850 from portions of Monmouth County except for Little Egg Harbor Township which seceded from Burlington County in 1891.
  • Union County was formed in March 1857, from portions of Essex County.

I’ve left the evolution of the NJ County boundaries to be covered in a future post.


Graph of North Jersey Population 1790 - 2010 by County

Graph of North Jersey Population 1790 – 2010

The seven North Jersey counties all had small populations until about 1830 when Essex County’s growth rate began to rise more quickly than the rest. Hudson County took off in 1850, its development going stride for stride with Essex County until the turn of the 20th century when Essex surged ahead for good – late bloomer Bergen County surpassed Essex County in total population in 1980. Hudson County, whose growth potential was limited by being the smallest county in land area (47 sq. mi.), remains on top of the list for highest population density (13,495 persons per sq. mi) having a density more than twice than of Essex County. Passaic County has grown quite steadily from the mid 19th century to the present while Morris County’s growth spurt waited until after World War II. By contrast, Sussex and Warren Counties have experienced a much lower increase in population than the rest of North Jersey.


Graph of Central New Jersey Population 1790 - 2010 by County

Graph of Central New Jersey Population 1790 – 2010 by County

In Central Jersey, Midllesex, Mercer and Union Counties saw the earliest growth. Union County, part of Essex until 1857, took the lead in about 1900, to be surpassed by Middlesex County in about 1960. Monmouth County which had been in fourth place behind Mercer County moved up to third place in the early 1950’s and, in the 1970’s passed Union County for second place in Central Jersey. Ocean County’s growth started to skyrocket in the 1950’s bringing it into the third spot in 2010. As the largest county in area, Ocean still ranks in the bottom third of population density. Somerset and Hunterdon Counties have expanded at a more modest pace yet Somerset County has a population density similar to neighboring Morris County while Central Jersey’s Hunterdon County is as sparsely populated as Warren County in the North and Cumberland County far to the south.


Graph of South Jersey Population by County 1790-2010

Graph of South Jersey Population by County 1790-2010

In the early 1800’s Burlington County was the South Jersey population leader – not surpassed by Camden County until the 1870’s.  Today Camden County is the most populated of the South Jersey counties and has a density of almost twice that of runner-up GloucesterCounty.  Atlantic County was quite sparsely populated until the late 1800’s. It currently has a population similar to that of Gloucester County, which did not see significant growth until the 1950’s. The most Southern Jersey Counties – Salem, Cumberland and Cape May have not experienced the population growth of the rest of the South Jersey region. In fact, Salem County’s population density of 196 persons per square mile is less than 70% of that of Sussex County, the second most sparsely populated county in New Jersey.


Why did the counties of  the State of New Jersey develop at such different rates? What factors played a role in more rapid growth:

  • Transportation?
  • Sources of power for industry?
  • Proximity to New York and/or Philadelphia?
  • Natural and recreational resources?
In an upcoming post we’ll look at the development of one key municipality in each of the counties of New Jersey to see if we can find answers to some of these questions. I suspect that transportation resources in the form of ports, canals, railroads and highways will be the catalyst for growth in many regions while creating different patterns in each.
The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC













Sidewalk Repairs in New Jersey – Who gets the bill?

Cracked sidewalks on Nassau St. in Princeton

Cracked sidewalks on Nassau St. in Princeton

Sidewalk Repairs are in the news.

Sidewalks, or more specifically defective sidewalks, have been in the news in New Jersey lately — raising the issues of “What rules dictate where sidewalks are installed, who is responsible for making sidewalk repairs and how do New Jersey municipalities and property owners share the cost of sidewalk repairs?”

Towns making news about sidewalk repairs

In its July 22, 2012 article “Amid slippery laws, towns take a stand on sidewalk repairs”, the Star Ledger reported about a program in Highland Park, NJ to require homeowners to repair defective walkways in front of their lots. Judging by the comments on, the residents are incensed about being required to fix defective sidewalks.


Scott Luthman, Highland Parks’s Construction Official, advised that approximately 1200 notices have been issued to repair cracked, settled, heaved or otherwise deteriorated sidewalks throughout the 1.9 square mile borough. This initiative was sparked by complaints from local residents, many of whom walk to worship services. According to Mr. Luthman, Highland Park offers to contract for the repairs and to bill the property owner for the actual costs incurred by the borough. Payments may be made over a five year period with a modest rate of interest applied to the bill. Commercial and residential property owners are treated alike. If the property owner chooses to select a contractor, the borough will provide a tree expert to alter street trees that are raising sidewalk slabs. So far, most residents are quietly conforming to the policy – there are, however about 15 to 20 property owners that are very unhappy and vocal.


A similar tale is unfolding in Ridgewood where the Village has issued 160 notices to residents requiring them to repair sidewalks within 45 days.  Much of the damage in Ridgewood is caused by trees planted in the grass strip between the curb and sidewalk.  The property owners are being held accountable for repairing the sidewalks despite the fact that neither the trees or the sidewalk are on their property. Waldwick allows residents until the end of the year to make repairs and will consider giving extensions of time due to financial hardship.

How some other municipalities approach sidewalk repair financing.

Having been the Municipal Engineer for the Borough of Princeton for over twenty years, I understand the intensity of feeling often generated by requests of the municipality to have sidewalks repaired – or even worse installed where none existed before. The Princeton Borough Code also requires adjacent property owners to construct and maintain the sidewalks within the public right of way in front of their premises — including the removal of snow and ice.

In the mid 1980’s, the Borough of Princeton developed a program that required the evaluation of all sidewalks within the limits of road construction and overlay projects. Repair of defective sidewalks was included in the scope of the borough’s capital projects. Property owners that elected to have their sidewalks replaced by the municipal contractor were assessed at 50% of the cost of the improvement, payable over a 5 – 10 year period. Persons opting to perform the work on their own were not offered a subsidy.

Sidewalk raised by street treee

Sidewalk Raised by Street Tree on Spruce St. in Princeton

Princeton Borough Engineer, Jack West reports that his office is currently administering an annual sidewalk repair program valued at over $120,000. This year’s program is primarily for the repair of walks damaged by municipal shade trees, These repairs are made at no cost to the adjacent property owner. Mr. West noted that the municipal ordinance allows his office to issue violation notices to property owners but only does so if a complaint initiated investigation reveals that the condition is very unsafe. Otherwise, repairs are made in conjunction with the borough’s capital road improvement program.

Princeton Township Engineer, Robert Kiser reported a similar policy of assessing homeowners for 50% of sidewalk repair costs as part of a capital road project. The township does not assume the entire cost for repair of walks disturbed by street trees but does bear the cost of handicap accessibility improvements such as curb ramps and detectable warning strips.

In nearby Lawrence Township, Municipal Engineer, James Parvese reported that property owners are given the opportunity to have their sidewalks replaced as part of a municipal project and make payments over time but are billed for 100% of the repair cost.

According to Robert Vogel, Municipal Engineer, Madison Borough maintains the sidewalks in the Central Business District through a maintenance agreement with the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the sidewalk area on Route 124. Generally, Madison holds property owners responsible for sidewalk repairs but provides a 25% incentive when the work is performed as part of a municipal project, which they run every year. There is no charge for damage caused by a municipal shade tree or improvements made to remove barriers for the disabled.

Freehold Township takes yet another approach. Township Engineer, Tim White outlined a novel incentive program which allows homeowners – not commercial properties – to request a 50% rebate from the township for sidewalk repairs they have performed by a contractor. Under this program, property owners must make application to the township prior to starting the work. The Township Engineer then inspects the property to determine if the repairs are necessary and that the damage has not been caused by the property owner’s negligence (such as allowing heavy equipment to pass over the sidewalk). To qualify for the reimbursement, the property owner must obtain a road opening permit, post a bond, have the work inspected and provide copies of the concrete delivery ticket and the contractor’s invoice. The town will then provide a 50% reimbursement up to a cost of $7/ sf for 4” thick walk and $9 / sf for 6” thick walk. Currently, an annual budget of approximately $25,000 is provided for this program.

“Home Rule” prevails – one size doesn’t fit all in New Jersey.

Policies in other municipalities range from:  requiring property owners to make repairs based upon the results of housing or continued certificate of occupancy inspections to just not doing anything about sidewalks because they are the property owners problem. The most prevalent policy seems to be to direct the property owner to make the repair or have the municipality contract for the work and assess the owner for 100% of the cost.

I’d like to know how this problem is addressed in your community. Please leave a comment.

Of course this is just the opening salvo in a discussion about sidewalks in New Jersey. In the near future I plan to discuss matters such as:

  • How did sidewalk installation and maintenance policies evolve in New Jersey?
  • What regulations define where sidewalks are to be built and the standards of construction.
  • Who’s liable for an injury occurring on the sidewalk in front of your property? – Does the answer to this question change if the property is residential, commercial, or non-profit?
  • Do the sidewalk requirements in the NJ Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS) conform to those in the Public Rights of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG)?
  • Will municipalities eliminate sidewalk repair subsidies in response to the 2% State mandated budget caps?

And, a bit more.

I’d like to know how this problem is addressed in your community. Please leave a comment.


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The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC

The North, South, Central Jersey Debate – How I got interested

Perth Amboy Ferry Slip

You may wonder how a fellow from Staten Island has become so intrigued by the differences between regions of New Jersey and this long running Jersey debate. I guess it started early in my life since we could see much of Monmouth County from our dining room window. Just across Raritan Bay were Sandy Hook, Atlantic Highlands, the ammunition pier in Leonardo and water tanks in Keyport and Keansburg. My grandparents had a summer home along a lagoon in the Shore Acres section of Brick Township. Occasionally, we shopped in Perth Amboy or Menlo Park, usually getting there via the Outerbridge Crossing but occasionally taking a small ferry that ran between Perth Amboy and Tottenville on Staten Island.

Rotolactor at Walker Gordon Farms

Later I attended Rutgers College (which now goes by some other designation) in New Brunswick. Within my first month at Rutgers, I took a bus ride to Princeton to witness Rutgers beat the Tigers in the traditional football rivalry. At that time, there wasn’t much development on Route 1 between the Route 130 traffic circle in North Brunswick and the turn on Washington Road to Princeton. I did, however, see signs for Walker-Gordon Farm where my dad had occasionally taken us to see the cows getting milked on the rotolactor.


I spent many hours rowing up and down the Raritan River past portions of New Brunswick, Highland Park, Edison, East Brunswick, South River, Sayreville and Piscataway. As Rutgers was then an all men’s college, I had time to ponder questions such as “Why is North Brunswick south of New Brunswick?” and “How did the Delaware and Raritan Canal get from New Brunswick to Trenton?” Now I wonder “Why did the government spend millions of dollars to build a marina on the Raritan River in New Brunswick where there is very little water at low tide?”


Having worked through the summers with land surveyors, I developed an interest in old maps. This interest continued after my graduation from Rutgers when I took a job as Assistant Engineer for Freehold Township. As the development of this area of Monmouth County had just started to escalate, the Engineering Department consisted of the Township Engineer, William B. Dickerson and me. As low man in the organization, I was introduced to the Hall of Records to research the deeds, maps and road returns necessary to perform property surveys.


Surveyor General’s Office – Market St., Perth Amboy

In doing my research for a new roadway in the southern portion of  Freehold Township, I was required to trace the chain of title back for over 100 years. I found two pieces of information that intrigued me. The first was that Monmouth County originally consisted of only three municipalities -Shrewsbury, Freehold and Middletown. The second fact was that there were, even in the 1970’s, parcels of land that had never been conveyed from the original grants from the King of England. Acquisition of these parcels for the Freehold area needed to come from the Proprietors of East Jersey. That name struck a chord. I remembered a white building in Perth Amboy that said something about Surveyor General or some such thing.



I then took a job with a consulting engineering firm, Charles J. Kupper, Inc., who assigned me to construction projects in Ocean, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties spanning from Tuckerton to Edison. The first week that I worked for them    I found myself looking at a sewer installation in front of my grandparents old summer home. It made me feel connected to New Jersey.


There were some things that seemed odd about working in Ocean County. First, they didn’t have 7-11 convenience stores, they only had these places called  WaWas. Also, I had now crossed the line into the 609 area code.


Hoagie Haven, Nassau Street, Princeton

I then took a job as Municipal Engineer for Princeton Borough and the North versus South Jersey issues cropped up more frequently. The most popular place in Princeton that made sandwiches on long Italian Bread was called Hoagie Haven, not Tastee or Edison Subs as I was accustomed to. Furthermore, I couldn’t get decent reception on my favorite New York based FM radio station – this was never a problem in New Brunswick or Edison. I even heard rumors that Princeton University had been known as the northern most southern university in the United States. I new as a Rutgers graduate that I had venturied into enemy territory by taking a job just down the street from Nassau Hall, but had I strayed into a completely different culture?



 Previously – Where am I – North Jersey, South Jersey or Central Jersey? 

Next – What Other Guys are Saying


The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC

What if you built a marina and nobody came? or New Brunswick Landing

A few weeks ago I read an article in the Star Ledger about some new docks that have been constructed on the Raritan River in New Brunswick by Middlesex County in partnership with the City of New Brunswick. Apparently they spent $7 million of tax money obtained through Green Acres grants. to construct 12 slips capable of accommodating boats of up to 45′ in length.

You can see the whole story at:

Raritan River Looking Upstream from New Brunswick Landing


Having spent many hours on the Raritan River between Piscataway and Sayreville during my rowing days at Rutgers, my first thought was “There’s no water there at low tide.” My second thought was that it seems like an awfully long and winding trip from the mouth of the Raritan River to New Brunswick (but I’m generally in vessels powered either by sails or oars so maybe power boaters would view the situation differently).


I was in New Brunswick last Thursday for a business meeting and saw a variable message board on Route 18 announcing that the docks at Boyd Park were open for use – I had to check it out. What I found were some very attractive floating boat slips located just downstream of the Albany Street Bridge. I noticed that there was an additional channel marker near the docks. Previously, the channel had ended a few hundred yards downstream near the entrance to the Delaware and Raritan Canal.


Docks at New Brunswick Landing

On the date of my visit the tide was not quite low. The river bed was exposed at places upstream of the dock so it appears that it would be unwise to venture beyond the limits of New Brunswick Landing. There were no boats in the slips last Thursday afternoon but there was a county employee on site to perform maintenance and to register guests to the  facility. He advised me that there were originally more berths at the site but some were damaged during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.  He said that there was no charge for docking privileges and that boats were permitted to stay overnight but that the gates to the dock would be locked after hours.


I left feeling that the facility was very attractive and appeared well engineered but still wondering “Who is going to use this dock” and “Was this a wise use of $7 million of public funds?” In my mind if the facility is well used then the investment in the New Brunswick waterfront is a good one. What I’d like to know is if you boaters out there plan to take the trip to New Brunswick and tie up at New Brunswick Landing.


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The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC

Where am I – North Jersey, South Jersey, or Possibly even Central Jersey?

What line divides North Jersey and South Jersey – Does Central Jersey even exist?

A few weeks ago my daughter, Sara Peters, was helping me to develop ideas for a presentation to the fall meeting of the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers. While brainstorming about potential topics she posed the question “Where do you think that most of the attendees will come from? – North Jersey,  South Jersey,  or Central Jersey?” This renewed a debate that has been brewing in our family for a number of years – “Where is the dividing line between North and South Jersey and does Central Jersey even exist.”


For us, the discussion began in earnest when Sara started to date her husband-to-be, Peter Aguero. Sara and Pete met while attending Rutgers University – the New Brunswick campuses. Sara, who was born and raised in Edison, knew full well that New Brunswick was situated in the heart of Central Jersey. Pete, who hails from Delanco – a town situated along the Delaware River in western Burlington County- was equally sure that New Brunswick was in North Jersey. While I’m not a New Jersey native (In fact I currently live in Staten Island, NY – separated from NJ by a narrow band of water but connected with three bridges that demand payment of a $12 toll.), I attended Rutgers University and have worked for most of my career as a Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor in Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and northern Ocean Counties – land that I consider to be in Central Jersey.


Now, being of an engineering mindset, I thought that the first approach at defining North, South and Central Jersey would be to group the 21 counties into three groups of seven (obviously if there were only North and South Jersey we would need to have an even number of counties). My grouping is as follows:

North Jersey:     Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex and Hudson;

Central Jersey:  Hunterdon, Somerset, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer and Ocean;

South Jersey:     Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem and Cape May;


Admittedly, it was a difficult choice to determine into which groups Ocean County and Burlington County should be placed. I chose to place Ocean County in the Central Jersey group as it was part of the colonial grant for East Jersey (I’ll discuss the history of East and West Jersey in a future post). as were the majority of the other counties in the Central Jersey group. Burlington was the home of the proprietors of West Jersey, an area that contained all of the other counties I had arranged in the South Jersey Group.


While my groupings looked pretty neat, I thought that it might be wise to look at some official statistics. After all, the map seemed to show that more than 1/3 of the land area was in the group that I had labeled as South Jersey and more than 1/3 of the population resided in at least the eastern portion of North Jersey. A review of the 2010 Census data revealed the following facts.





Annual Income

Sq. Mi.




(persons/ sq. mi)


$/yr (millions)

Per Capita ($/yr)









































In my preliminary research I ran across the Center of Population Project , which has calculated that in the year 2000, New Jersey’s population was centered in Milltown, just slightly east of the New Jersey Turnpike, between exits 8A and 9.  This point is pretty near the center of my definition of Central Jersey  – my proposition is looking pretty good about now.



Geographic Center of New Jersey

Further research revealed that the geographic center of the state was located 5 miles southeast of Trenton at 74°33.5’W 40°4.2’N, which lies in Plumstead Township, Ocean County, south of Route I -195, east of the NJ Turnpike and north of McGuire Air Force Base. Now that point is just about on the border between Burlington and Ocean Counties, That means the geographic center is on the line between Central Jersey and South Jersey – that can’t be right.



It seems that getting these definitions of North Jersey, South Jersey and possibly Central Jersey accurate is going to be harder than I thought. It appears that I need to dig into this matter further. It’s been bugging me since Pete brainwashed Sara into becoming a Philadelphia Phillies fan when she grew up rooting for the New York Mets.


Please share your thoughts on this thorny issue with me – by answering these two poll questions and posting comments.

[poll id=”3″] [poll id=”4″]


Next – The Jersey Debate – How I got Interested


The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC



Home Improvement Contract Disputes – Payment of Legal Fees

Home Improvement Contracts – Proposal to Eliminate Award of Attorney’s Fees for Technical Violations of the Act and Regulations

New Jersey Senate Bill S1769, sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, proposes to eliminate the award of attorneys’ fees, filing fees and costs of suit for committing technical violations of the Consumer Fraud Act. It seems to me that this is an excellent idea. It would retain the awarding of treble damages and attorney’s fees where a consumer can show actual damages from the actions, or inactions of a home improvement contractor yet may reduce protracted litigation by consumers with little damage but no exposure to the expense of a lawsuit.

Currently, the Consumer Fraud Act and the Home Improvement Practices Act apply to any home improvement contractor performing almost any type of repair, alteration or addition to a residential building or property. The Consumer Fraud Act was established to protect consumers from fraud, misrepresentations and other acts of bad faith. As a way to punish reprehensible behavior, the law provides for the awarding of treble damages, attorneys fees and court costs to plaintiffs that show a contractor has violated the letter of the law, or the regulations, in preparing and performing a home improvement contract. The plaintiff is not required to show that the violation of the law caused him to be damaged.

The Contractors Registration Act, NJSA 56:8-136 et seq., requires all home improvement contractors to be registered with the State of New Jersey, Department of Consumer Affairs. Exclusions to this requirement are provided for some persons already licensed by the State such as: architects, engineers, surveyors, plumbers and electricians. Home improvement retailers with a net worth of $50 million, or more are also exempted from the registration requirement as are the builders of new homes who are registered under the New Home Warranty and Builders’ Registration Act.

The law requires that contractors must maintain general liability insurance in a minimum amount of $500,000 per occurrence and that the work may not begin until all required permits have been issued. The contractor must not accept final payment prior to obtaining certificates of approval or occupancy.

All home improvement contracts in excess of $500 must be in writing and written in plain, understandable language (and yes contractors, they must be legible). The customer may cancel the contract, by midnight of the third business day after receiving a copy of the copy, by notifying the contractor by certified mail or personal delivery.

The contracts and all changes to the contract terms and conditions must be signed by both parties, and must contain the following information:

Name and address of the contractor
Contractor’s Registration Number
A detailed description of the work
Total price to be paid, including payment terms and conditions
Starting and completion dates
Printed disclosure language per NJSA 56:8-151
Certificate of Insurance

Right now a home improvement contractor who failed to include one of these items on the contract, or made a change in the work – even one requested by the customer – without a written change order, could be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, even if the work was performed properly. This just doesn’t seem equitable to me.

I think that Sen. Turner’s proposal would be improved by defining the term “technical violation”. For example, which of these infractions could be considered technical violations?

Starting work before receiving a building permit;
Forgetting to put the Contractor’s Registration Number on the Contract
Failing to provide a certificate of insurance
Completing the project one week late

While the current bill still leaves some questions unanswered, I believe that if enacted into law it will serve to eliminate some frivolous lawsuits while adequately protecting the consumer. Bad contractors may have their licenses revoked and guilty contractors will still be subjected to treble damages. If the damages are high, it’s unlikely that they were caused by a technical violation of the rules. That’s when fee shifting seems warranted.


The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC