EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — State officials Wednesday plan to discuss their proposal to improve the safety of one of the most dangerous stretches of the Garden State Parkway.
A series of closely spaced interchanges at Exits 36, 37 and 38 on the Parkway leads to significant traffic congestion, according to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The southbound ramp at Exit 36 also lacks an acceleration lane onto eastbound Tilton Road. This leads daily to stopped cars stacking up at the exit, sometimes reaching all the way to the parkway.
Consequently, the authority said this section has the highest crash rate in its southern portion, south of the Raritan River. As they planned the project, authority officials even briefly considered closing Exit 36, but township officials dissuaded them.
State crash records show that there were 130 accidents on the southbound parkway in the half mile leading up to Exit 36 between 2009 and 2012. These led to 30 injuries and one death.
State records also show no crashes in 2013 on the same stretch, but it is unclear how complete the data is.
The authority plans to begin construction later this year on the road in an $83 million, three-year project. Among the improvements:
— Extend the eastbound Atlantic City Expressway’s two-lane off-ramp onto the southbound Parkway;
— Add a new bridge to separate the expressway entrance ramp from the Exit 37 off-ramp at Washington Avenue;
— Provide an acceleration lane for cars leaving the parkway at Exit 36 for Tilton Road, as well as provide standard acceleration and deceleration lanes throughout;
— Reconstruct stormwater drainage and replace bridges and culverts.
The authority is officially holding the meeting because the roadway project will require the use of 0.15 acres of land near the former West Jersey & Seashore Railroad right-of-way that had been designated as parkland. In exchange for using the land, the authority has agreed to contribute at least $6,000 to the state Department of Environmental Protection Garden State Preservation Trust.
Egg Harbor Township officials have also discussed tying a new roadway into the Exit 36 off-ramp, for use by the Harbor Square plaza. Authority spokesman Tom Feeney said the township would have to build a perimeter road, which would then tie into the ramp.
“They haven’t submitted anything to the Turnpike Authority yet for review,” Feeney wrote in an email, “but nothing in these improvements precludes them from doing that work.”
Bruce Frank, president of Frank Investments Real Estate, Inc., the owners of the Towne Stadium 16 movie theater, said recent talks for the new access road with the new owners of Harbor Square were very productive.
Frank said an off ramp would allow the mall and his company to develop new stores and other entertainment, including a possible family entertainment center. These, he said, would help increase the township’s ratable base.
Frank Investments initially proposed a dramatically expanded theater complex in 2006 that included bowling, laser tag, billiards, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf and a host of restaurants. The $10 million, 65,000-square foot project never got off the drawing boards, but Frank said with the off-ramp talks it, or something similar, remain an option.
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