By Chris Rotolo |
TINTON FALLS – About 150 residents turned out for an information session on how the county proposes to improve two intersections on Sycamore Avenue, one at Hance and the other, 500 feet away, at Hope Road.
Some residents were shocked to see possible solutions that weaved through the backyards of properties along Sycamore Avenue, or in another case, directly through an existing house at 325 Hance Ave.
“The study and models show that there will be a reduction in traffic and accidents, but there will be impacts to certain properties, and in some cases significant impacts,” said senior engineer Ronald Lotrecchio of Stantec Consulting Services Inc. (SCS), who presented concept plans with Monmouth County Dept. of Engineering at the Borough Council meeting Tuesday, May 1. “But these are just schematics. They’re not construction plans.”
Residents expressed their displeasure, saying they feared their property values and quality of life could be significantly impacted by the plans
SCS has deemed the intersections, both “T” intersections, to be “severe crash problems” at peak congestion hours of 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.
The first of two “feasible concepts” calls for an extension of Hope Road, which currently ends northbound at Sycamore Avenue, an option that offers vehicles traveling south on Hance Avenue an egress directly onto Hope Road before approaching the more dangerous left turn at the Sycamore Avenue intersection.
Although the schematic does show the Hope Road extension routed directly through a resident’s living room, Lotrecchio said the alignments can be adjusted to the north or south of the property if the concept is adopted.
Monmouth County engineer Joseph Ettore said that regardless of what concept is selected, addressing the safety issues of these intersections is long overdue.
“To say that this is not a problem, I can’t say that I agree with that thought,” Ettore said. “We’ve been at this for 10-plus years and we’re back here because we don’t think we can continue to ignore it. And quite frankly I think we’ve ignored it too long. To say the crash rate and injury rate are not severe, that’s not what the data shows.”
Lotrecchio and his team – which included associate traffic engineer Matthew Maher – presented a recent four-year history of crashes at the intersections and reported more than 20 injuries from numerous right-angle collisions, a crash rate the findings said were greater than twice the state average and an injury rate that was three times higher.
SCS also projected future safety conditions of the intersections over the next 20 years, a forecast that accounted for population growth, Fort Monmouth’s redevelopment and traffic from Apple Street to Hance Avenue.
The projection showed a 0.6 percent increase in safety incidents per year, resulting in a more than 15 percent growth over the next two decades.
“We noticed a lot of close calls while recording video at the intersections,” Maher said. “What’s driving this study is that vehicles aren’t able to find sufficient gaps to pull into traffic. And it creates problems with those left turns. Not only is it a crash problem, it’s a severe crash problem. You’re not risking sideswipe collisions, you’re risking T-bone collisions. Those are always more high speed and severe.”
At peak-hour conditions, SCS reported upward of four-minute backups in traffic on Hance Avenue and Hope Road, a problem both concepts would address.
The second acceptable concept would be to place a traffic signal at the Hance Avenue and Sycamore Avenue intersection, which would work simultaneously with the current signal at the Sycamore Avenue/Hope Road intersection and provide continuous traffic flow from one intersection to the next.
SCS determined that 3.1 acres of right-of-way would need to be acquired with roughly 10 feet of widening along Sycamore Avenue required for the first concept to be completed, at a total project cost of $2.2 million.
The second concept would require only 0.1 acres of right-of-way acquisition – minimizing the impact to certain property owners – but 15 feet of widening along Sycamore Avenue, with a project price tag of $1.6 million.
Both concepts concerned residents who feel their property values and quality of life will be negatively impacted. But most alarming was the Hope Road extension plan, which weaved through several properties.
“This plan, regardless of how feasible you may say it is, it’s creating an island of the remaining houses over there, which would now have a sea of traffic around them all the time,” Blythe Puleio, a Tinton Falls resident, said. “Which is OK for you, right? As long as traffic moves it’s OK for you. But what about the quality of life of the people who live there?”
Six previous concepts presented by SCS were deemed unfeasible by the organization.
According to Ettore, the county is requesting a 30-day public comment period. Any resident wishing to file a comment is directed to submit it to the borough administrator, who will then funnel the comments to the county.
This article was first published in the May 3-10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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