By Jay Cook |
LINCROFT – Almost a decade after the first roundabout opened outside Brookdale Community College’s main entrance, the township is considering whether a second traffic circle makes sense at the college’s other end.
The Phalanx Road entrance, which abuts residential neighborhoods across the street and the Colts Neck boundary opposite the Swimming River Reservoir bridge, can become congested at peak hours.
Middletown Township Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger said on Thursday that the township is researching whether or not a second roundabout would be worthwhile. The police department will be tasked with collecting traffic data.
“If the numbers are there, which they inevitably will be, then we would maybe have Ted Maloney (township engineer) take a look at it and see if it’s feasible,” said Scharfenberger.
At a Feb. 6 Middletown Township Committee workshop meeting, a Lincroft resident told the governing body about her frustration and appealed for help.
“The traffic is often at a standstill on all roads around Brookdale,” said Melanie Elmiger. “It’s actually a way of life in Lincroft. Our village is a college town.”
A member of the Lincroft Village Green Association (LVGA), Elmiger said she had already approached the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in mid-January about the construction of a new roundabout at the college’s Phalanx Rd. entrance.
The majority of Phalanx Rd. is part of CR-54, beginning where the road meets Route 34 in Colts Neck. It ceases to be a county road when Phalanx Rd. meets the Swimming River Reservoir bridge, at the point where Colts Neck ends and Middletown begins.
“Since their (Monmouth County) jurisdiction ends at the boundary of the Brookdale campus and the Middletown Township Committee’s jurisdiction begins at Phalanx Road, I’m here tonight to discuss how Middletown can become our champion for roundabouts,” Elmiger said.
In 2007, a roundabout at the CR-520/Newman Springs Rd. entrance to Brookdale opened – that project was completed in conjunction with Monmouth County, Middletown Township, the LVGA, Brookdale and Lincroft Bible Church. It has helped alleviate static traffic flow entering and exiting the college.
Mayor Scharfenberger, who was mayor when that circle opened, said traffic circles can be hard to implement.
“The problem with roundabouts is typically you need a lot of property to acquire,” said Scharfenberger. “You have to see how much frontage you would be taking from private individuals.”
Captain Robert Kimler of the Brookdale Police Department sees the traffic at the Phalanx Rd. egress as only a marginal issue.
“For most of the week we don’t see large traffic backups at the Phalanx Road entrance,” Kimler said in an email. “During peak times and large campus events, however, we do see some congestion. Most backups result from drivers attempting to make a left turn onto Phalanx Road, where there is only one turning lane.”
The exiting left turn Kimler referenced can be a tricky one for students and faculty leaving the college. The view of oncoming traffic from Colts Neck is blocked by cars making right-hand turns onto Phalanx Rd.
It also isn’t uncommon to see cars make a right onto Phalanx Road, then a quick left onto Hickory Lane to turn around, essentially completing a U-turn.
“Drivers can be cited for doing so, and there are signs posted on Phalanx Rd. warning drivers against it,” said Kimler.
That traffic sign at the exit states that anyone caught cutting through any of the residential neighborhoods across the street could be subject to a $70 fine and two points on their license.
For Andy Deltuvia, who lives on the Hickory Lane side-street Green Grove Court, dealing with the college traffic has become a way of life.
“There’s quiet times, and then there’s not,” he said. “To me, it’s really not that bad on Phalanx – I could do without it, but I know it’s a necessity.”
The amount of wildlife being struck by cars along Phalanx Rd is his biggest concern. Deltuvia said he petitioned the township about four years ago to put up deer and duck crossing signs, yet nothing happened.
“I’m more concerned about the deer,” he said. “There’s one on the side of the road right now. They’re getting smashed like crazy.”
Commuters traveling to and from the college have differing opinions on whether or not a second roundabout is necessary.
Mary Daly, a Middletown resident in the Brookdale nursing program, has to be on campus for her Monday classes bright and early. She thinks some relief would be beneficial.
“I think it would help, especially when we come here for 8 o’clock classes,” she said. “Everybody’s trying to get to school as well. It’s such a hassle.”
She added that she dreads the left turn out of the college. “There’s just so much traffic coming, and no one lets you out,” she said.
A.J. Sanfilippo and Scott Jansen, both students in Brookdale’s Automotive Technology program, are skeptical that drivers use the roundabout correctly.
Jansen, a Beachwood resident, says he stays away from the CR-520 entrance for that exact reason.
“I would just rather avoid people that don’t know how to drive so I don’t get hit,” he said.
“I think it’d be good, but a lot of people don’t know how to drive through the circles,” added Sanfilippo, a Freehold resident. “The whole point is that you’re not supposed to stop, but everyone does.”
Editor’s Note: The online version of this story has been edited to clarify that in his comments to the Two River Times, Capt. Robert Kimler did not state whether a roundabout was needed or not.
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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