GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Converting Exit 40 of the Garden State Parkway into a full interchange at Route 30 “is not considered critical” and would not justify the difficulties of building the project, a new study has concluded.
The findings represent yet another setback for local officials who have lobbied for years to have the parkway’s operating agency create unfettered access between Exit 40 and Route 30 in Galloway Township.
Galloway Mayor Don Purdy accused the New Jersey Turnpike Authority of ignoring the wishes of his township and other local communities surrounding the parkway. He said he suspected the authority had already made up its mind and had no interest in moving forward with the project, even though it is supported by local leaders.
“I believe that the turnpike authority went into this project knowing they didn’t want to do it in the beginning,” Purdy said. “But I have not seen one local official against the Route 30 project.”
Tom Feeney, an authority spokesman, said the agency has fulfilled its pledge to take another look at the project, but that Exit 40 “doesn’t qualify” for an overhaul.
“Our consultants did a careful study of traffic volumes and projected growth patterns in the region. They considered the challenges that utility and environmental constraints would have posed to building in that location. And they concluded that the facts simply do not justify the completion of the interchange at this time,” Feeney said.
A consulting firm was hired by the authority to study the possibility of transforming Exit 40 into a full interchange by building new ramps to fill in “missing” links with Route 30. Stantec Consulting Services of Mount Laurel, Burlington County, was retained after Galloway Township and Atlantic County officials argued that the project would stimulate economic development along the Route 30 corridor into Atlantic City.
Newly released documents posted on the website of state Sen. Christopher J. Connors, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, whose legislative district includes Galloway Township, also make it clear that Stantec is not in favor of the project.
“Based on the results of the traffic projections and impact analysis performed for each of the alternatives studied, construction of the new ramps to the missing movements at Interchange 40 is not considered critical,” according to the documents.
Connors could not be reached for comment Monday. In the past, he has proposed using state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority funds to build a full interchange at Exit 40. CRDA funds, supplied by the casino industry through a tax on gross gambling revenue, currently are used for new housing projects, economic development and tourism initiatives in Atlantic City.
If built, the Exit 40 project might include a southbound on-ramp and northbound off-ramp to fully connect the parkway with Route 30. Currently, there is no direct access to Route 30 for motorists heading north on the parkway, and no direct access to the parkway’s southbound lanes for drivers traveling west on Route 30.
A signalized jughandle at Third Avenue in Galloway Township, about a quarter-mile from Exit 40, provides indirect access between the parkway and Route 30 to fill in the missing links.
Purdy said the parkway estimated Exit 40’s conversion cost at $20 million to $40 million a few years ago, but has since revised the figure to about $10 million.
Stantec’s study also considered lower-cost alternatives to building a full interchange, such as traffic signals or a partially reconstructed Exit 40, but stressed that those options would offer only limited access between the parkway and Route 30.
Noting the project’s long and tumultuous history, Purdy said there has been debate about Exit 40 dating to the 1970s. Despite the latest setback, Purdy said he is not ready to concede defeat and plans to discuss the project with Galloway officials during their council meeting Tuesday night.
“I don’t believe you’re going to change the mind of the turnpike authority,” Purdy said. “It’s a shame to say.”
The authority has no money in its capital plan for the Exit 40 project, Feeney noted. Instead, the authority has been concentrating on rebuilding other parkway exits in Galloway Township, including interchanges 41 and 44, as part of a series of upgrades on the southern stretches of the 173-mile toll road.
“We have a solid history of spending money on important improvements in the region,” Feeney said.
One major project is an ongoing, $900 million widening of the parkway in both directions between Toms River, Ocean County, and Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County. Purdy said the parkway bridge spanning Route 30 needs to be widened for the parkway’s expansion, so that creates a “perfect” opportunity to transform Exit 40 into a full interchange.
Local officials see Exit 40’s conversion as a way to improve traffic flow and boost economic development along the Route 30 corridor into Atlantic City.
“I believe business would thrive,” Purdy said.
Absecon Mayor John Armstrong, another supporter of the project, agreed that full access between the parkway and Route 30 would enhance the economy for surrounding communities. A full interchange would also create a better evacuation route for coastal communities when hurricanes threaten the shore, Armstrong added.
“If you have a full interchange on Route 30, you can make use of it to regulate and redistribute the flow of traffic outbound at a time that could be critical,” Armstrong said. “I think that’s another attribute for a full interchange at Exit 40.”
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