The aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Halloween blizzard of 2011, Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter gives New Jersey and the region a future-looking opportunity that should not be missed. We all experienced first hand the challenges of coordinating government and private utility services while life-threatening scenarios were occurring in real time. Now is the time to see change, plan for it responsibly and repair and improve the infrastructure that has been proven too fragile. Better coordination efforts are achievable. Legislation must address redundancy and rate structures must be re-examined. Basic review of the need for underground service lines for telephone, electric and natural gas are mandatory. Zoning changes to reflect current flood patterns should be considered. Homes to be rebuilt — or not rebuilt — can use better techniques, such as modular construction and components, that will lessen rebuilding time and put people back in their homes, not in trailers. The ports were not immune to damage and the loss of commerce to them is devastating to the regional economy. Whole transit systems failed, causing more loss of revenue and human productivity by commuters, transporters and railroads. What about a sea wall?
This list is only a beginning. FEMA funds must be used wisely. We believe this is not rocket science — the tasks seem too obvious. Funding by the private sector, by the federal government and state must be allocated to repair the damage but also to plan for future needs. Planners talked about these things for years; now it is time to pick the best plan for the region by interstate agencies, federal and state government and energy providers. The goal will be to create anew and abolish what we know isn’t working. We should not be at sea about this again.