Route 1 Congestion Relief Project named finalist in America’s Best Transportation Project Competition


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Residents encouraged to vote online for New Jersey’s Route 1 project in South Brunswick

The Route 1 Permanent Hard Shoulder Running Project, which uses the shoulder as a travel lane during peak commuting times to relieve congestion and improve safety, has been named a finalist in AASHTO’s 2021 America’s Transportation Awards Competition.

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Route 1 is a three-lane highway in most sections, except between Independence Way and Raymond Road in South Brunswick, where it is reduced to two lanes. The lane reduction often causes bottlenecks and delays in this area.

Allowing cars to use the shoulder as a travel lane on both Route 1 northbound and southbound from 6-9 a.m. and from 4-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, eases congestion and improves traffic flow, according to information provided by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT).

After a six-month pilot, DOT made the improvements permanent based on the following benefits:

  • Having three travel lanes, instead of two, created more space between vehicles, which increased safety.
  • Commute times were cut by up to 50%.
  • Capacity improved. Before the pilot program, the corridor carried an average of 5,600 cars southbound during the morning rush-hour. During the pilot, the route carried 6,000 vehicles during this same timeframe.
  • Average vehicle speeds were 31 mph during the pilot compared to 13 mph before.
  • Vehicles traveling in the shoulder do not prevent first responders from using the lanes.
  • Less congestion reduces carbon emissions for improved environmental impacts.

Operational safety improvements included 14 overhead lane-use signals and four dynamic message signs at the entrances and exits of the roadway in both directions, according to the statement.

“The Route 1 Congestion Relief Project has been a critical improvement to the infrastructure of our community and has had a direct impact upon the free flow of vehicular traffic through central New Jersey,” Mayor Charles Carley said. “The Congestion Relief Project began as a pilot project back in June 2017 with the goal of adding the shoulder as another lane of travel during peak travel times. It was designed to keep traffic flowing, reduce congestion, and improve safety.

“Route 1 has always been a forefront issue for our residents and businesses, as well as our neighboring communities. The project has had a direct impact on the motoring public and as a result has relieved a majority of the bottleneck congestion areas along the Route 1 corridor.
“As a result of the improvements, the addition of the shoulder as another lane of travel during peak travel times has assisted in achieving our goal of improving traffic flow, reducing congestion, and most importantly, improving safety.

The Township of South Brunswick is extremely proud that our partnership program with the DOT has been named a finalist in AASHTO’s 2021 America’s Transportation Awards Competition,” Carley said.

South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka praised DOT and the engineers behind the Route 1 shoulder project, touting its efficacy.

“Our roadways are at maximum capacity, and being located equal distance between New York City and Philadelphia makes us a hub for traffic activity,” Hayducka said in an interview. “In my entire career, I know of no similar effort that reduced the traffic congestion by 50% during rush hours. This project was a result of community-based engagement by the South Brunswick Transportation Advisory Committee, South Brunswick Police Traffic Safety Bureau and the NJDOT. Its success highlights both the engineering and the imagination required to overcome the traffic challenges we face.”

In addition, 28 cameras were installed to continually monitor the shoulder lanes, and turf pavers were installed to provide for maintenance access without lane closures.

Because of the Route 1 HSR program’s success, DOT now considers HSR with appropriate ITS, a standard transportation system management and operations strategy when scoping cost-effective congestion management projects in the state, according to the statement.

“We are extremely proud that for the second year in a row, a DOT project has been named a national finalist in this competition,” DOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in the statement. “This national recognition demonstrates New Jersey’s leadership in delivering innovative and cost-effective projects that improve our communities and enhance quality of life for New Jerseyans.”

The America’s Transportation Awards competition, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is a competition in which state DOTs compete in three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development; Best Use of Technology and Innovation; and Operations Excellence, according to the statement.

Each category is also designated by project budget size: small (less than $25 million), medium ($25 million to $200 million), and large (greater than $200 million).

Projects are judged within their region.

Twelve regional winners were selected from 80 nominations to compete for the National Grand Prize, and the People’s Choice Award.

Ten thousand dollars in cash awards will be given to the winners to donate to a transportation-related charity or scholarship program of their choosing.

The Route 1 Permanent Hard Shoulder Running Project is designated as a small project competing in the Operations Excellence Category.

Last year, DOT’s Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project was selected as a national finalist in the medium-sized project, Quality of Life/Community Development category, according to the statement.

An independent panel of transportation industry experts will select the Grand Prize winner, while the general public will decide the People’s Choice Award winner through online voting. Online votes will be weighted to each state’s population, allowing for greater competition between states with larger and smaller populations.

The winners will be announced at the AASHTO Annual Meeting the week of Oct. 26-29.

Online voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 25 at

Individuals may cast one vote per day per device.

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