Motorists frustrated by backups along the Garden State Parkway in Egg Harbor Township could see some relief with $83 million of improvements proposed for a 1.5-mile stretch of the highway, but those improvements remain a few years away.
Work proposed for Exits 36, 37 and 38 would address congestion by adding additional lanes and dividers. An early schedule anticipates that design won’t be complete until 2014, with construction stretching to 2017, but the project’s exact schedule is dependent on permits that still need to be secured from various state agencies, New Jersey Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney said.
The project would address backups at Exit 36 onto Tilton Road and Exit 38, where the Atlantic City Expressway joins the Garden State Parkway. One proposed fix is a southbound deceleration lane on the parkway at Exit 36 and an acceleration lane on Tilton Road, eliminating the current stop-and-go pattern. The ramp connecting the eastbound expressway to the southbound parkway, which currently narrows from two lanes to one, would be extended to two lanes throughout.
A safety issue caused by the close proximity of Exits 37 and 38 would also be addressed. There, the authority noted that vehicles leaving the roadway at Exit 37 and entering at Exit 38 are forced to weave to avoid each other. The problem would be remedied by the addition of a divided ramp that would separate the entering and exiting traffic.
Residents who wish to weigh in on the plans can do so during an information session from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Egg Harbor Township Community Center. Public input will be included in an environmental impact statement the authority will submit to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Egg Harbor Township Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said he was satisfied with the authority’s plans, noting that in meetings about five months ago, the authority initially suggested shutting down Exit 37 all together due to safety concerns.
After writing a letter to the authority stating the township’s opposition to eliminating the exit, McCullough said he recently received a call from authority Executive Director Ronnie Hakim assuring him that those plans have been scrapped.
“We were told it was one of the highest accident areas on the parkway. We don’t have any record of that, but that’s what they said,” McCullough said. “I’m pleased they decided not to do away with it.”
The township, however, is still hoping other improvements can be made, though they likely wouldn’t be funded by the Turnpike Authority. Officials have long discussed the need to improve access to the Shore Mall, whose owner has said the issue has hindered development. Officials recently approved a plan to demolish nearly a third of the shopping complex, which would leave room to construct a more direct connection to the parkway.
That connection won’t be built by the Turnpike Authority, but Egg Harbor Township officials have been told they will be able to modify parkway ramps at their own expense to improve access to the mall, Feeney said.
“It’s a limited-access highway. We can’t provide exit and entry to every commercial development along the road,” Feeney said. “What we’re talking about would involve them building a local road around the perimeter of the mall and then connecting that local road to the existing parkway ramp.”
McCullough said he’s satisfied with that arrangement, adding that he met with mall officials Tuesday to discuss plans for a direct entrance to the mall.
The authority has recently committed to other large projects in the region. In the spring, work is expected to commence on $50 million of improvements to Exits 41 and 44 in Galloway Township, creating full interchanges at both locations. Another $125 million project that will remove the only three traffic lights on the parkway in Cape May County is set to get under way this year.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
Follow @ACPressJennifer on Twitter