By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – Improvements are being planned for Route 524 (Stagecoach Road) in Millstone Township. Route 524, which is a Monmouth County road, is classified as a two-lane rural major collector road. The road connects Millstone to many other county routes, including Route 539, Route 571 and Rout 537. The speed limit in the area designated for improvements is 50 mph.
The project, which is in its preliminary stage, was presented to the Township Committee on Jan. 20 to notify the public of the plans for the road.
The presentation was primarily conducted by Kevin Nugent, a principal engineer with Monmouth County and the project manager. Also present were Christine Mittman, a principal planner with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), and Tom Pagani, a senior supervising engineer and department manager with Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The NJTPA is a Metropolitan Planning Organization that serves 13 counties in New Jersey, including Monmouth, and is providing funding for the Stagecoach Road project. Parsons Brinckerhoff is an engineering firm and will handle consulting duties.
According to Nugent, the project is necessary because Route 524’s existing curve radii and super-elevation do not meet the minimum road design standards for a road design speed of 55 mph. Design speeds, as explained by Nugent, are five mph faster than a road’s speed limit.
The project area was ranked by the NJTPA as the fifth most severe location for accidents in Monmouth County, according to the presentation. From 2003-13 there have been 21 reported accidents, which have caused 10 injuries and one fatality.
“We found that (accidents) were usually occurring during wet conditions and at night,” Nugent said. “It was usually hitting a fixed object on the side of the road.”
The improvements will be made to a half-mile stretch of Stagecoach Road in Millstone Township and Upper Freehold Township.
According to a press release from the county, the application of a high-friction surface treatment, safety edging (to minimize vertical drop-off and allow motorists to safely re-enter the paved road) and signs to warn of curves along Stagecoach Road from Cherry Lane in Millstone Township to the intersection with Chambers Road and Roosevelt Road in Upper Freehold Township will cost $375,000.
The project is among 17 throughout the region that the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Board of Trustees approved at its Jan. 11 meeting. The Stagecoach Road project is part of the NJTPA’s High Risk Rural Roads Program.
“The High Risk Rural Roads grant will let us make further safety improvements to a road that has seen several crashes, helping us to prevent injuries and save lives,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone, who is an NJTPA trustee.
The NJTPA board previously approved a $225,000 grant in 2014 for safety upgrades along a winding stretch of the road in Millstone Township. That project included resurfacing, adjusting the road elevations at sharp curves, brush clearing, drainage improvements and the installation of reflectors, signs and high-visibility striping.
In addition to the surface treatment and safety edging, the latest grant will also fund lighting at intersections and safety striping.
The county intends to complete the preliminary design of the Stagecoach Road project in March. After that, Nugent said, the next step will be to send a categorical exclusion document to the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is projected to occur in April.
“It’s a document that gets submitted, is reviewed by the DOT, and they approve the project formally,” he said.
Mittman explained that the document allows the DOT to analyze the environmental and social impacts of the planned improvements.
“Everything is looked at from an environmental, parks and social perspective,” Mittman said. “And (the DOT) certifies that the project can move forward in this abbreviated environmental approval document.”
Construction on Stagecoach Road is anticipated to begin in spring 2017, according to the representatives.
“If all goes well with this project, we hope to have federal authorization in September, which would allow for the county to start construction sometime in the spring,” Mittman said.
Nugent said he was open to appearing before the committee again after Mayor Bob Kinsey suggested that he, Mittman and Pagani return in the fall to provide an update on the planned improvements.