The Southern Middlesex County Freight Movement Study has officially completed as short-term recommendations will take place in the following months to help lessen truck traffic impacting residential roads in towns such as Cranbury.
Officials recently announced the completion of the freight study, recommendations and the release of the final report at a press conference held outside Middlesex County Improvement Authority’s building in East Windsor on Oct. 24.
“We kicked off this study in the spring of 2022 with the goal of assessing truck traffic in the southern portion of Middlesex County. Particularly the impact of truck traffic on local roads, neighborhoods and our resident’s safety and quality of life,” said Ronald Rios, director of the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners.
He noted that among the study’s primary recommendations is a designation of new preferred routes for trucks that will limit their time on local roadways and in residential neighborhoods whenever possible.
The county, along with its other partners including the state, will also work to get the trucks to drive on mapped preferred routes by working with the navigation (GPS) system providers for the warehouses and public GPS providers.
“We expect that this will make a big difference on residents in terms of traffic, noise and safety,” Rios said.
The county in partnership with municipalities, and state government agencies will move forward on several key recommendations from the study.
They will work with local warehouse operators to prioritize routes that keep trucks out of local neighborhoods, install signage directing trucks to use designated truck routes rather than traveling through residential neighborhoods, and the county will apply to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for truck restrictions on key local roadways.
Additionally, the county and its partners are pursuing long-term infrastructure improvements such as reconfiguring roadway lanes and intersections to improve safety.
“As we proceed with these projects, we will continue to evaluate their impact and consider the study’s recommendations for larger infrastructure projects in the long-term,” Rios added. “Truck traffic is a regional issue and must be addressed as such.”
The freight study is the product of a partnership between North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), NJDOT, Middlesex County Department of Transportation and Middlesex Board of County Commissioners.
In 2022, Middlesex County announced the Southern Middlesex County Freight Movement study to identify strategies to safely manage truck traffic and balancing the needs of all vehicles and drivers using the roadways in southern Middlesex County.
“With the announcement that Middlesex has completed its own freight movement study for the southern section of the county, it sets the stage for both [the] NJDOT and NJTPA to work together to find good short and long-term fixes for the freight traffic that we have in this area,” NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.
In the short-term, NJDOT recommends several improvements along Route 130 corridor – eliminating left turns at the North Main Street intersection at North Main Street (left turns can be accommodated at Cranbury-Half Acre Road) and restriping Route 130 at South River Road.
“These two improvements will be done in the next several months,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.
NJDOT will work on improving signage to make sure trucks can be properly directed to truck routes that already exist.
“We will certainly support Director Rios’ efforts to talk to our private sector partners to get them to also encourage their vehicles to follow those truck signs and not take what I will call shortcuts, because they think they are more efficient,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.
There is also a planned reduction in the speed limit on state Route 32, which would drop from 45 miles per hour (mph) to 40 mph and standardizing the number of lanes in each direction.
For long-term mitigation efforts, NJDOT has a project in design that will convert the traffic circle at Route 130 and County Road 539/South Main Street into a four-legged signalized intersection.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti explained that the project is in the preliminary engineering phase and is currently scheduled to go to construction in the next few years.
“The department also has a project in final design that will make safety improvements [to the] Route 130 intersection of County Road 679 and Georges Road and Wheeling Road,” she added. “Currently, NJDOT Office of Freight Planning is examining the feasibility of furthering a project at Route 32 and County Road 535 to help reduce congestion.”
In 2024, the Office of Freight Planning will also conduct a statewide analysis of truck parking facilities. Gutierrez-Scaccetti said, “..to ensure people who deliver goods that underpin our everyday lives are able to do so safely and outside of our communities.”
Liberty Way Bridge
Over the years, Cranbury residents have pushed for a Liberty Way Bridge over the Cranbury Brook that would connect the north and south sections of Liberty Way, which would then operate as a Route 130 bypass road for truck traffic.
Cranbury Township cited the Liberty Way Bridge in its 2019 Master Plan Reexamination Report. The bridge is not one of the recommendations in the final report.
The Middlesex County Department of Transportation in a statement to The Cranbury Press said the Liberty Way Bridge has been “seriously considered by the county.”
“Based on a recent review it remains a challenging project to pursue. Originally presented in 2003, the severe environmental and financial impact of this project to the local community, continues to be the barrier to move forward,” a Middlesex County Department of Transportation representative said.
“While the freight study released did once again explore this option, it was denied, as the previously identified challenges continue to prevent this project from being feasible.”
For more information on the final report and the full list of recommendations, visit www.njtpa.org/MiddlesexFreightStudy.