Lawrence officials to meet with state regarding nose barrier

Scott Jacobs

Lawrence Township officials are gearing up to make another pitch for the construction of a noise barrier on I-295, bordering the Long Acres neighborhood that is located to the rear of the Lawrence Township Municipal Complex.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Hunterdon, Mercer) has arranged for the Oct. 1 meeting between New Jersey Department of Transportation officials and Lawrence Township Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski and Municipal Engineer James Parvesse.

Residents of the Long Acres neighborhood, who have been pushing for a noise barrier for more than 20 years, wrote to Sen. Turner for help earlier this year. She, in turn, reached out to the NJDOT to meet with Lawrence Township officials.

Since the residents began lobbying for a noise barrier in the early 1990’s, the NJDOT repaved a stretch of I-295 with a type of asphalt that reduces the sound of cars and trucks rushing by and that also reduces hydroplaning in wet weather.

But recently, the asphalt was removed and I-295 was repaved with conventional asphalt that has increased road noise from the highway – and that’s why residents approached Lawrence Township Council for help earlier this year.

The noise from cars and trucks on I-295 is 50- to 75-percent higher and it lasts longer since the road was repaved, Long Acres resident Buz Donnelly told Township Council earlier this year.

Long Acres neighborhood residents have been asking for the construction of a noise barrier for years, and the NJDOT has been promising to build it for years, Donnelly said.

Most of the homes in the Long Acres neighborhood were built in the 1960’s and predate the construction of the interstate highway.

Residents claim the noise from I-295, which was built in 1974, interferes with their enjoyment of their homes. The interstate highway was built several feet above grade level – above their houses – and it contributes to the noise level, they said.

Former Gov. Jim Florio included money for construction of the noise barrier in the early 1990’s, but the plans were shelved after he lost his re-election bid.

The issue surfaced again in 1999, when the NJDOT agreed to build a noise wall if Lawrence Township would contribute toward its cost. But subsequent changes in federal regulations banned towns from contributing money toward projects.

Then-NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere agreed in 2005 to build a noise barrier – a 13-foot-tall wooden wall that would have cost an estimated $3.2 million – but the plan was put aside again in 2008 when the NJDOT’s priorities shifted to road and bridge projects.

Lawrence Township officials have continued to lobby for the noise barrier, but each time the request has been rejected for financial reasons – even after the fuel tax was increased to provide funding for the NJDOT’s Transportation Trust Fund.