GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Officials have safety concerns about the configuration of a temporary access road between the Garden State Parkway and Jimmie Leeds Road as construction begins on a new State Police barracks.
Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy and two councilmen said the configuration of the temporary road is tight and difficult to maneuver for motorists.
The temporary road, which is located about 100 feet to the east of the existing road, opened last month. NJTA said the shift is not expected to have any impact on traffic.
"I've driven through it. You have to be very awake and alert. I don't know how a tractor trailer is going through there during busy times of the day," Purdy said.
The busiest and most congested times on the road are during the morning rush from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and in the return commute from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Purdy said.
"I've been on that road three or four times since it opened. I don't think anybody could claim with a straight face that it is 'difficult to drive' at 15 mph," Tom Feeney, spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, wrote in an email. He added the agency has not "received a single call, letter, email or site visit from any township official expressing concern about the temporary road."
In December, the Turnpike Authority announced it was moving forward with plans to build a new State Police barracks in Galloway Township to replace the outdated station on the parkway in Bass River Township.
The $13.5 million project includes plans for a 27,500-square-foot building, which is being built off Jimmie Leeds Road. The authority also has plans to add a full interchange at Exit 41. The new barracks is expected to be completed by 2014.
Feeney wrote that without the temporary road alignment at the mouth of Jimmie Leeds Road, the roadway would have to close completely during construction of the State Police building. If that happened, there would be no access between the parkway and Jimmie Leeds Road until the new Interchange 41 opened in the fall of 2014.
NJTA has had many meetings in Galloway Township over the past two or three years, and residents and elected officials have been clear that maintaining access between Jimmie Leeds Road and the parkway is important, Feeney stated. It provides access to the nearby AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus, as well as The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Galloway Councilman Jim McElwee said historically the Turnpike Authority has been "unresponsive" about issues raised, but he still plans to address the road at the next regular council meeting and send a letter to the authority about the township's concerns.
"How are we going to convey to them that this is something that is an issue and needs to be addressed? Maybe we need to contact them and have their engineer come down and take a look at the configuration of the road," McElwee said.
Purdy said talking to the authority about the township's concerns likely would bring the response that their engineer designed it and it meets state standards. "What they're probably going to say is that it's a temporary construction area and that's the best they can do," he said.
Feeney said the contractor has taken every precaution to make sure the road meets very high safety standards. They include: posting signs alerting drivers to the curve; variable message boards to let drivers know there is an unfamiliar traffic pattern in place; the installation of concrete barriers with reflectors and impact attenuators; and added storm water drainage. The speed limit also was reduced in the area from 25 mph to 15 mph, Feeney said.
McElwee said he noticed last week while driving on the road that it was difficult to navigate. He said he has heard complaints recently about the temporary road from coworkers who access it during their commute.
"I would hate to see this go on until, God forbid, we have a serious accident. They should look at it now and see what the problem is. When you make the left at the stop sign and a right onto the access road there is a sharp bend. If you're not paying attention it could be a problem," he said.
McElwee said Councilman James Gorman also received some complaints about the configuration of the roadway from residents.
Gorman acknowledged the roadway is tight and difficult to maneuver, but also said that it is part of the preparation for the expansion of the interchange in the area - a project that is wasteful spending on the part of NJTA.
Gorman said NJTA should concentrate on the Route 30 area instead of the Jimmie Leeds Road, but that communication with the turnpike authority has never been good. The money the state is spending between exits 44 and 40 would be better spent on Route 30 and launch an effort to bring more ratables to the area, he said.
"It would serve the communities of Absecon, Atlantic City and Galloway much better to concentrate on adding a northbound full interchange at Route 30. I think half the traffic would disappear at Jimmie Leeds Roads if it was done this way," he said.
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