BY KATHY CHANG
OLD BRIDGE — Numerous accidents and a myriad of complaints from residents over the last three years have prompted another move to put a traffic signal at the intersection of State Highway 34 and Amboy Road.
In August 2010, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) Bureau of Traffic Engineering and Investigation reviewed and denied the township’s request for a traffic signal at the intersection. However, the DOT did recommend revisions to the existing lane configuration to add a left turn lane on Route 34 southbound at Morristown Road, which was completed.
The Old Bridge Council voted in favor of a resolution at a meeting on Jan. 25, suggesting DOT perform an updated study of the intersection to determine if a traffic signal is warranted.
With that, the council voted to commit the township to provide 25 percent of the construction cost, or approximately $52,500, for the proposed traffic signal.
The DOT has estimated that the construction cost of a proposed traffic signal would be approximately $210,000.
“This has been in the works for 10 years,” said Councilwoman-at-Large Debbie Walker of the process to make the intersection as well as the stretch of Amboy Road and Route 34 safer for the public. “We hope that this is a move in the right direction.”
Nicole Shapiro, director of Community Development and township engineer, had sent a memo to Mayor Owen Henry and the Township Council on Jan. 13 requesting a move for DOT analysis of the intersection.
“Several residents of Old Bridge have recently brought safety concerns related to the intersection of New Jersey State Highway Route 34 and Amboy Road to the attention of the Old Bridge Township Engineering Department,” she wrote in the memo.
Shapiro said the Engineering Department contacted DOT; however, DOT officials said they would not begin their investigation unless they received commitment from the township, by resolution, to pay 25 percent of the construction cost.
Dan Triana of the NJDOT’s communications department said that the DOT works closely with local officials whenever there is a request to make changes to state highways.
“There is a process that the department follows, which may begin when DOT receives a copy of a municipal resolution supporting a specific change and a commitment to provide the required 25 percent of the project funding,” he said.
At that point, NJDOT conducts an investigation into the request to determine what engineering solutions may be appropriate, Triana explained.
“It is important to note that a resolution from a town approving a traffic signal, or any other change to a state highway, does not guarantee the change is justified, as there are federal guidelines that must be met,” he said. “After an investigation is conducted, the DOT determines what, if any, actions are necessary, and the municipality is included in the final recommendations.”
Triana said once they receive note of the resolution by Old Bridge Township, the investigation can take several months or more depending on the scope of the request.
Traffic improvements at those intersections have been made over the years, including a traffic light implementation at Spring Hill Road and Route 34 and a four-way-stop at the intersection of Disbrow Road and Amboy Road.
Ward 3 Councilman Reggie Butler, who was instrumental in getting the traffic light at the Spring Hill Road and Route 34 intersection, said he is in favor of the current resolution in an effort to make the intersection at Amboy Avenue and Route 34 safer.
There have been a total of 13 motor vehicle accidents from January 1, 2012 to November 4, 2015. In 2012, there were three accidents, in 2013, four accidents; 2014, three accidents; and in 2015, three accidents. Only one of these accidents was reported with injuries and there were no fatalities.
The township saw motor vehicle fatalities in the surrounding area in 2006 and 2007 — a 17-year-old girl lost her life after her vehicle was sideswiped at the intersection by a tractor-trailer truck while she turned from Spring Hill Road onto Route 34 and a young township couple was killed after their car was struck by a GMC truck as the vehicle they were in was making a left turn from Disbrow Road onto Amboy Road.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Mary Sohor said council members will now lobby the DOT.
“This is a step we are taking seriously for this dangerous intersection,” she said.
Also at the meeting, the Township Council voted in favor of supporting a center lane on Route 34 for a left turn only, for both directions of traffic, between Sheila Court and Forest Garden Drive.
Michael E. Mihalic, supervisor of traffic investigations with the DOT’s Bureau of Traffic Engineering, wrote in a letter to the township in June 2015 that the department determined that the lane use reservation for left-hand turns is supported and can be recommended for approval.
DOT was required to promulgate a Traffic Regulation Order before the council adopted a resolution of concurrence.