GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — People came to a public hearing on Garden State Parkway Interchanges 41 and 44 all fired up about Interchange 40 at U.S. Route 30 — the one topic off limits.
It was “absolutely irresponsible” to not consider all of these interchanges at the same time, said Michael Greb, one of the nearby residents who testified, saying that all the local traffic is interlinked.
Local officials and residents have long lobbied for the creation of a full interchange at milemarker 40, saying it would attract more business to the White Horse Pike and decrease traffic congestion in and around other major roadways.
But the The New Jersey Turnpike Authority hearing Tuesday night focused on the interchanges near milemarkers 41 and 44, which provide access to Richard Stockton College and other development near the Atlantic City Service Area. About 40 people attended the hearing, held at Stockton.
The overall goal of the project, highway officials said, was to make it easier and safer to drive through the rest stop, as well as provide for current and expected future demand, balancing traffic between the two interchanges, while accommodating an ongoing parkway widening project. A cost was not provided Tuesday night.
Construction is scheduled to start in the spring on the project and run into early 2015. When it is finished, Interchange 41 will have new northbound and southbound entrances at Jimmie Leeds Road. Jimmie Leeds will be widened, with bike lanes and a new traffic lights controlling access.
A new State Police barracks will stand at the current access road that many people now use to reach the parkway from Jimmie Leeds. Access-road traffic will be limited to authorized vehicles.
Interchange 44, at Pomona Road, will be upgraded to a full interchange, with new traffic lights at the on- and off-ramps to safely accommodate turning cars. Pomona Road will also be widened, with bike lanes. And the parkway bridge over Pomona Road will be replaced by a new wider bridge.
Highway officials said almost 9 acres of trees would be cut down for the project. Donald Chappa, the project manager, said the NJTA would compensate the state Department of Environmental Protection, rather than replant approximately 1,800 trees.
But many speakers remained concerned about Interchange 40. State representatives called for a full interchange between the parkway and the White Horse Pike in October, paid for with Casino Reinvestment Development Authority funds. A full interchange is on regional long-term plans.
Currently, motorists at the interchange can only enter north onto the parkway from the westbound side of Route 30, or exit the southbound side of the parkway onto the eastbound side of Route 30.
Mike Suleiman, a Galloway Township resident, said this interchange would benefit Absecon and Galloway Township residents. The overall project discussed Tuesday, he said, “is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist,” hurting commuters who would find it more difficult to access the park-and-ride facility once access from Jimmie Leeds Road is limited.
The service road, he said, “Is it the best? Clearly not, but it works. It’s been there for God knows how many years.”
Other concerns were also raised. Anthony Coppola, Galloway Township deputy mayor, said the park-and-ride facility at the rest area would be harder to reach and recommended placing it off of Jimmie Leeds Road. Perhaps the move could help area businesses, he said.
Keith Davis, an attorney representing a nearby property owner, suggested adjusting one of the ramps so as not to cut through his client’s land, while using an existing right-of-way. This could benefit future traffic growth, he suggested.
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