By Jay Cook |
RED BANK – Plans to construct a full service “super-convenience” Wawa at one of Monmouth County’s most congested intersections have hit a sort of traffic jam, as lawyers and detractors tell of how the plan could further clog up the area.
The property in question is a 1.7-acre, triangular-shaped property now occupied by an Auto Exotica showroom and used cars sales lot, located at 6 Newman Springs Road. The notoriously congested five-leg intersection is fed by a steady river of cars daily from Newman Springs Road, Maple Avenue, Broad Street and Route 35, and includes a gated NJ Transit rail line crossing as well. The New Jersey Department of Transportation has given the area a service level of “F” – the worst possible rating.
The current property owner, A&B Holdings, seeks to lease the property to Wawa to build a 5,585-square-foot convenience store with 12 associated fuel pumps for gasoline and diesel fuel. Cars would be able to access the site from Newman Springs Road only – there’s one entrance-only lane on the eastern end of the property, and then a “right-in, right-out, left-in” driveway on the western end. Left turns out of the property, heading east on Newman Springs Road, would be prohibited.
After hours of testimony at its first hearing before the Red Bank Zoning Board in February, lawyers and traffic engineers used up another three hours on March 1 as they went back and forth about its impact to residential Red Bank streets and Shrewsbury roadways.
“I think this is a perfect site for this application,” said John Rea of McDonough & Rea Associates in Manasquan, the traffic engineer hired by the applicant. “It’s going to serve a lot of people that need these services.”
But a throng of lawyers fighting to stop the construction of the Wawa couldn’t disagree more, saying that the use could flood more cars onto the roadways than they can handle.
“We’re talking about a major impact putting a ton of cars out into a residential district of Red Bank,” said lawyer Edward J. McKenna Jr., a former mayor of Red Bank, who is representing Gulshan Chhabra, who owns the Exxon at 220 Newman Springs Road.
Also litigating against the Wawa are Red Bank-based lawyer Michael Convery, representing Christopher Cole, managing partner of the commercial development company Metrovation, which owns The Grove, The Grove West, and a shopping center at 89 Newman Springs Road. The other lawyer present was Corey Klein, representing Outfront Media, LLC., which owns billboard signs on the NJ Transit right-of-way just next to Auto Exotica. Klein is with Sills, Cummis & Gross, P.C., a law firm with offices in New York and Jersey.
Rea had testified that the Wawa would have an “insignificant” impact to streets near that Red Bank/Shrewsbury border. At the peak hours, from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m., Rea anticipates 252 site visits in the morning time frame. Using the newest data from the Institute of Traffic Engineers, Rea said 76 percent of all traffic to Wawa would be “pass by,” meaning traffic already on those roads. Only 24 percent would be categorized as new traffic.
In essence, he said, it would only add one car to the end of a traffic queue waiting to get through the intersection at peak hours.
He also testified that there had been only 25 accidents reported to the Red Bank Police Department since 2015 between Broad Street and Henry Street. They were mostly fender-benders, side swipes or T-bone collisions.
Rea did call the site “unique” considering its proximity to the NJ Transit rail line, where he said motorists at times can get stuck for nearly 3 minutes waiting through multiple traffic cycles. About 65 trains pass that location daily.
“If not here, then where in Red Bank?” Rea asked. McKenna pressed Rea for over an hour on Thursday evening about how possible cut-through traffic could be a detriment to many of the West Side side streets used to feed motorists back towards Route 35 South. According to Rea, cars would make a right turn out of the Wawa, a right onto Henry Street, another right onto Drs. James Parker Boulevard, and then a fourth right turn onto Maple Avenue.
McKenna was concerned about the diversion of traffic towards Monmouth Day Care, 9 Drs. James Parker Blvd., and to Park Place, which accesses Count Basie Park.
“This is a street that wasn’t even discussed,” McKenna said about Park Place. “We have a very large recreation area immediately adjacent to this site and we are being asked to accept, as a municipality, additional street traffic.”
Shrewsbury Borough’s governing body has also taken a position on the Wawa project. They sent a letter to the Red Bank Zoning Board and the Monmouth County Division of Planning on Feb. 20 detailing how the proposed gas station and convenience store “are likely to exact adverse impacts to local roadways and individual properties.”
McKenna and Convery said they will present their own traffic expert at the next zoning board meeting, set for April 5.
This article first appeared in the March 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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