EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A project to eliminate dangerous cut-throughs on the Black Horse Pike now will be built with just half the turn lanes originally proposed to replace them.
Drivers headed west will be able to make left- and U-turns — eventually — at Tremont and Ivins avenues, state Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro said. Eastbound drivers will be able to make left- and U-turns at Ridge Avenue.
Egg Harbor Township Administrator Peter Miller opposes the scaled-down scope of the project, questioning whether the state plans “to build three of these and put the rest of their money in their pocket.”
At issue is a long-standing plan to close off midblock vehicle cut-throughs on medians along a 2-mile stretch of the Black Horse Pike east of English Creek Road. Meanwhile, other openings would be lengthened.
The township has sought these changes since the 1990s, saying the cut-throughs are dangerous. Schapiro said the project is designed to improve safety by controlling turns and limiting the number of median openings.
Crash data from the Department of Transportation show one person was killed and 200 people were injured in 242 crashes along the pike from English Creek to Spruce avenues between 2007 and 2012.
The original project, approved last year, was to close eight cut-throughs on the highway medians and create both right- and left-hand turn lanes at Ridge, Ivins and Tremont avenues — where there are no traffic lights.
Township Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough has said state officials briefed him and Miller on the project, pointing out flaws in the plan only became apparent when public safety workers saw the work underway. That’s when they noticed motorists going in opposite directions could attempt a turn at the same intersection from one of the new lanes. Officials feared the drivers would block each other’s view of oncoming traffic.
Schapiro said in an email that the DOT offered two alternatives: “to offset the head-to-head left turns, which the town initially felt was unsafe, or provide only one turn lane at each of the three intersections, which the town initially favored.”
The DOT chose the single-turn option because it was the safest alternative, Schapiro said. He said there are traffic signals about 1,500 feet away from all three intersections that allow both left and U-turns.
The $1.5 million project included updating storm-sewer lines. Schapiro said that project was put on hold in January following township complaints.
With the new plans in hand, crews restarted some grading work and storm sewer work at the site last month, Miller said.
Miller said the township had sought since March to get written confirmation of the new plans. Instead, he said state DOT acting Assistant Commissioner John Case confirmed the changes by phone Monday.
McCullough said he did not understand the delays.
“I just know I’ve been very upset,” he said. “They just did nothing but stall, stall, stall.” Unsatisfied, McCullough said the township will now seek help from state legislators.
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