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The premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and announcements in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jun 01, 2017

Route 34 Road Improvements

By Nicholas Deckmejian

On April 25, representatives from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) held information sessions regarding the potential road work being planned for Route 34. The proposed work would stretch from Route 537 to Route 9, covering more than 13 miles of road that threads through Colts Neck, Holmdel, Aberdeen, Matawan, and Old Bridge. Residents from these affected communities gathered at information sessions to learn what future years of travel could look like in their towns. Nobody knows these towns better than those who live in them, and attendees came prepared to ask questions and share their perspectives.

Representatives from the NJDOT gave their presentation of the Route 34 northbound and southbound pavement reconstruction concept development study, where they stated that “the primary purpose of the project is to reconstruct the pavement in the project area.” The original concrete pavement of the road was built around 1930, and while there have been many patches, fixes, and repairs throughout the years, the foundation of the road has deteriorated to the point where adding more pavement on top is no longer a solution, and a full reconstruction is now needed.

While the standard lifetime of reconstructed pavement is about 20 years, the proposed pavement will be expected to last for 50 years. In addition to reconstructing the pavement, this project will also upgrade traffic signals to current standards, bring signalized intersections to ADA compatibility, bring highway lighting to current standards, repair certain bridge structures and drainage structures, restore roadside berms to umbrella sections, remove roadside obstructions, upgrade guiderails, and perform curb, sidewalk, and driveway work as needed. Of the 70 intersections within the project area, 10 are being proposed for improvements, and others are still being considered as needed. These improvements are intended to enhance safety and operations at these intersections.

The presentation gave an overview of various environmental constraints that will be involved with the project. Within the 13 miles of work, there are 20 known sites of environmental concerns and the study is paying close attention to any of the wildlife habitats for threatened and endangered species. The project crosses 10 streams, 20 historical sites, and seven archaeological sites, which representatives claimed they have no intention of impacting. It was also stated that, at this time, major conflicts with utilities or relocations wouldn’t be expected, nor would there be any significant socioeconomic impacts, but that has not been completely determined yet.

While the project is still at the conceptual development stage, the presentation did go over some of the specific intersections where there will be proposed improvements. For example, the Conover Road and Laird Road intersection will be a targeted intersection, with plans to add a small left turn lane to deter cars from going on the shoulder and preventing rear end accidents. The Newman Springs Road intersection also has a new left lane proposed to allow more traffic to move through unimpeded.  Further north, the intersections near Lloyd and Van Brackle Roads are also included in the project’s improvement plans, with new left-thru and right-thru lanes being proposed for Lloyd, as well as more effective signal timing. New signalization is proposed for the Morristown Road intersection, and one of the only new signals they plan to install is at the Amboy and Middlesex Road intersection in response to a long-term study. While there may only be one or two new signals proposed in this project, intersections throughout the project will be considered for upgrades in adaptive signaling. This would allow signals to use artificial intelligence and relay traffic information to multiple signals, adapting to the flows of traffic in real time and timing signals appropriately.

The project is only in the concept and development stage, and some of these plans may change before the project ever begins, but meeting with members of the community has proven to be a vital part of the process. For the most part, attendees were underwhelmed by the proposed changes in light of the amount of inconvenience they would have to pay during the construction period. Others were frustrated by the NJDOT’s lack of familiarity with the area and the dissonance between their statistic-driven priorities and what the everyday traveler considers important.  Attendees consistently, and often harmoniously, asked why the project would target one intersection when locals all agreed that the next one down the line was a much larger source of trouble.  Some community members pointed out flaws in certain proposed plans, explaining how changes to specific intersections would cause traffic to overflow onto smaller roads and create bigger issues. Others believed that some of the improvements only solved a portion of the problems and expressed concerns that, unless properly addressed, more work would consequently be needed not too long after this project is completed.

Although everyone had their share of opinions as to how the flow of traffic would be remedied by the time this project is over, the most poignant concern was that of safety. To many of the attendees, not enough consideration went into quelling some of the more notoriously dangerous intersections. The NJDOT said that they selected their areas of improvements by identifying “hot spots” where crash analysis revealed a number of traffic incidents significantly higher than average. The community all seemed to agree that they would need more convincing that there will be proper safety improvements after suffering through years of reconstruction.

Internalizing community feedback is one of the main benefits of holding these information sessions, and each suggestion, complaint, and observation was to be added to the record for consideration as they continue to conceptualize these plans. As of the time of this presentation, the NJDOT’s estimated project schedule would have the start of preliminary engineering begin in the fall of 2017, allowing them to start the final design in the spring of 2019.  Following this estimated timeline and barring any funding issues, construction could potentially start in the fall of 2020. There is still much left to be done before ripping up pavement.  There will be more public meetings as the process continues, and while the community can expect two years’ worth of inconvenience in the not-so-distant future, they can still remain hopeful that the finished product is ultimately well worth the process.  For further information, please contact: Raymond S. Tomczak, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Office of Community Relations, 1035 Parkway Avenue, P.O. Box 600, Trenton, NJ 08625-0600. Phone (609) 530-2110 or email Raymond.Tomczak@dot.state.nj.us.