Safe Routes Scoop

The Ins and Outs of
Sidewalks in New Jersey

Standards (RSIS) establish Statewide requirements for improvements made in connection with residential development, including streets and parking, water supply, sanitary sewers and stormwater management. The RSIS establish “the minimum required to ensure public health and safety, and the maximum that may be required in connection with residential development.” The RSIS require sidewalk construction in most residential developments in the state. Municipal ordinances cannot supersede the RSIS, but may address issues not covered under the state standards. Even with the RSIS, major gaps in our sidewalk network still persist today. A large inventory of residential development was built before the implementation of the RSIS without sidewalks, and still lacks them today. Additionally, there are no statewide site improvement standards for commercial development similar to the RSIS, leaving decisions on sidewalks in shopping areas strictly to municipal review.


In other situations not governed by the RSIS, sidewalk construction may be voluntary or imposed by other policies. Developers whose work abuts county roads may be required to install sidewalks under county planning enabling statutes (especially if the road already has sidewalks). The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) might also require sidewalk construction under the state highway access code. In reviewing applications for roadway

access (required for new driveways, intersections, and interchanges on state highways), NJDOT consults safe design standards established through the access code. (See Sidebar)


With all these different rules and regulations, it’s understandable that confusion arises as to who builds sidewalks in New Jersey today. Two groups traditionally have taken control of sidewalk construction in the state: developers and public agencies. Each is typically associated with one specific type of sidewalk development. Developers normally are responsible for the initial installation of sidewalks during the construction phase. New developments must receive subdivision and/or site plan approvals that identify where new streets will be constructed and how they will be designed. Public agencies, meanwhile, are typically associated with sidewalk retrofits, which occur during street and highway construction or improvement projects. Roadway widening or realignment projects that require right-of-way adjustments present the opportunity to make changes and to secure additional lands when needed for sidewalk construction.


Sidewalk Building Challenges

Who would oppose building sidewalks? Opposition to sidewalk construction is not as uncommon as might be thought; not everyone sees value in providing sidewalks. Opposition can take many forms, but once it has arisen, overcoming

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