HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Some local officials hope that a popular alternate route to the shore that has been plagued by fatal accidents will be safer once drivers can see passing is banned along its length.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently notified the seven towns along Route 50 that it was seeking their approval to repaint the center lines, DOT spokesman Tim Greeley said.
Passing is already illegal on the state highway, he said. The state transportation commissioner issued no-passing regulations for the roadway in November 2010 and April 2013, according to the DOT website, but lines on several parts of the highway, including in Hamilton Township and Estell Manor, do not reflect this. It is unclear if any of the crashes have been a result of the unpainted lines.
Greeley said a routine DOT inspection discovered part of the road north of Third Street in Mays Landing seemed to indicate passing was allowed.
The agency is asking six municipalities for resolutions to support restriping. Hamilton Township passed its resolution earlier this year.
The 26-mile road runs between Egg Harbor City and Upper Township, along the less-populated western side of the Great Egg Harbor River. It connects parts of Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Weymouth Township, Estell Manor and Corbin City.
Route 50 is also a link between the Atlantic City Expressway in the Laureldale section of Hamilton Township and the Garden State Parkway in the Seaville section of Upper Township.
The speed limit on the two-lane highway is 50 mph for most of its length. As a result, DOT statistics show as many as 11,500 cars per day in the summer use the road as a detour during peak shore months.
But with the traffic come collisions.
DOT records also show there were 272 crashes involving 480 vehicles along Route 50 in 2011 and 2012. The crashes led to five deaths and 151 injuries.
By comparison, there were 48 people killed in crashes in all of Atlantic County in 2011, and 19 people killed in 2012.
The road is arguably worst in Hamilton Township, where the 106 crashes led to four deaths and 75 injuries.
Upper Township was second worst, with 79 collisions. There was one death and 35 injuries reported there.
Hamilton Township Deputy Mayor Roger Silva praised the move to repaint the center lines, saying he believes the roadway would be made safer.
“I think especially so, now that you have so many drivers who are inattentive,” Silva said. “Anything they can do to alert people to not take any chances” is welcome.
Estell Manor Mayor Joseph Venezia echoed Silva. “I don’t think it’s dangerous. I just think that people need to pay more attention to driving. Stay off the phones, stop texting and pay attention.”
He said the state should adopt a law similar to one he said was on the books in California. He said the law encouraged people on two-lane roads to pull over if someone is following them too closely.
In the meantime, Venezia said he has heard from residents who complained the state recently resurfaced one side of the highway in his township but left the other side untouched. He said he hoped crews would return to finish the job.
“Man to man, it’s like shaving only one side of your face,” he said.
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