Rebuild by Design: New Meadowlands -- Transportation Elements
The New Meadowlands project was proposed as part of the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design competition and involves the integration of flood protection structures with transportation assets. The proposal includes two components: (1) “Meadowpark,”a series of green berms integrated with a large natural reserve of tidal wetlands and freshwater basins designed to provide flood protection; and (2) the “Meadowband,” a berm covered by a street designed to integrate a Bus Rapid Transit line and provide multi-modal transportation options to the region. The project envisions increasing allowable development densities around the Meadowband to spur resilient, transit-centered development, connected to the civic amenity of the Meadowpark. The flood protection berm will be designed to provide protection from the 500-year flood event, with vital infrastructure (including railway hubs) protected against a 1 in 2000 year flood event.
The Meadowlands region of New Jersey was historically a freshwater delta where the Hackensack River connected with the upper bay of the Hudson River. The area was drained and dammed to allow for development, which has increased the region’s vulnerability to flooding and sea-level rise. Around 8,400 acres of the region are conserved as wetlands by a regional entity, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The Meadowlands region includes portions of 14 different municipalities. The project will be implemented initially at three pilot sites in the Meadowlands area: the northern edge (Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt, Teterboro, and South Hackensack), the eastern edge (Secaucus and Jersey City), and the southern tip (South Kearny and Jersey City).
In designing the project, the design team (led by MIT), considered the long-term vulnerability of the region to climate change impacts. The low-lying basin is subject to three types of flooding: coastal, riverine, and stormwater overflow. The design team evaluated how sea-level rise will exacerbate flood risks by building out a 100-year floodplain map using a projection of 2.5 feet of sea-level rise. The study evaluated the vulnerability of critical transportation lines and socially vulnerable populations. The Meadowlands region includes vulnerable critical transportation infrastructure such as rail yards, metro nodes, and an airport.
The New Meadowlands proposal creates a system of berms and restored wetlands (Meadowpark) to provide flood protection to the region. In addition to flood protection, the project also addresses the need for multi-modal interconnectivity between Meadowlands towns and newly created public spaces. There is currently very limited connection between developed areas within the meadowlands. Each town connects to a local access highway connecting the Meadowlands region to major corridors like I-95, but towns do not connect to each other by roads directly. The lack of intermediate connections often results in detours and a lot of travel on regional highways just to drive to towns short distances away. Automobile access is required, even for short-distance travel between towns. The lack of access between towns also limits evacuation options for individuals caught during extreme weather event. There is also a lack of public spaces like public parks and recreation areas, which affects property value. The project proposes to incorporate a flood protection device with transportation assets including a city street, mass transit line and bike trails as part of the Meadowband to increase multi-modal access within the region. The project would also develop eighty miles of bike trails throughout the area, including routes from Manhattan to Meadowpark.
The New Meadowlands proposal was chosen out of 148 applicants to compete as one of 10 finalists in the U.S. HUD year-long Rebuild by Design Competition. Final teams were chosen for their innovative and implementable proposals for projects that would increase resiliency in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Throughout the year, the 10 final teams engaged with community stakeholders and residents to get feedback on their proposals throughout the design process. Final proposals were presented to a Competition Jury and members of the public through receptions and online in April 2014, and U.S. HUD selected winning proposals in June.
As one of six winning proposals, the New Meadowlands project will be funded with a $150 million Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) as part of the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, allocated to the State of New Jersey. The State is planning to develop the project focusing on flood risk reduction in the towns of Little Ferry and Moonachie, the towns within the Meadowlands region that experienced the most damage during Sandy. The project will likely advance with a system of berms to reduce flood risks from the Hackensack River, and a secondary set of berms to reduce flood risks from the Barry River. As of December 2015, a contract had been awarded to assess different project alternatives for berm alignments through environmental review and to simultaneously conduct an engineering feasibility study.
This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on March 31, 2016.
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Publication Date: June 2014
- State of New Jersey
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Best practice
- Case study