UF mayor pressed on bypass stance

Residents of Upper Freehold Township seek united front from township committee on the proposed Westerly Bypass.

By: Lauren Burgoon
   UPPER FREEHOLD — Talk of the proposed Westerly Bypass drew the ire of several residents at last week’s Township Committee meeting, as members of the public asked the committee to present a united front on the issue.
   The Westerly Bypass, a counterpart to the newly opened Easterly Bypass, is intended to relieve traffic in downtown Allentown by connecting routes 524 and 539. Supporters say the road will ease shore and other regional traffic through Allentown, but opponents say the road may not be needed and, in any case, would run uncomfortably close to fields at Byron Johnson Park.
   Resident Phil Tumminia, of Heritage Drive noted that several other committeemen have publicly opposed the Westerly Bypass. He demanded that Mayor John Mele make known his position on the proposed road.
   "If the road is required, it should be built. I’m not convinced if it’s required or not," Mayor Mele responded.
   Mr. Tumminia insisted several more times that Mayor Mele make a clearer statement and accused the mayor of being "wishy-washy." Mayor Mele ultimately told Mr. Tumminia that he was for the bypass. The mayor said opposing the bypass would negate a lot of work previously completed by the Planning Board, of which he was a member, that shows the area needs the bypasses to alleviate traffic.
   "The Planning Board said it needed to be in place," Mayor Mele said. "You can’t say it was needed then but not needed now."
   But other committeemen and residents took issue with that and said the bypass is based on a traffic study conducted more than 10 years ago.
   Four Seasons resident Gerald Nathanson urged the committee to ask the county for additional studies about how the new Easterly Bypass affects area traffic and said Upper Freehold should monitor any such studies. He said Monmouth County officials have been in favor of the project for some time and he is afraid that county officials may engage in invalid studies that will prove the need for the Westerly Bypass.
   Committeeman Bill Miscoski said that at a meeting between him, Committeeman David Horsnall and county Freeholder Thomas Powers, Mr. Powers assured the committeemen that the Westerly Bypass would only be approved if it is determined to be needed after the Easterly Bypass is completely finished.
   Tony Consoli of Liberty Court told the committee that an inspection of the county budget might be very telling.
   "If the county has items (pertaining to building the bypass or conducting a study) in the budget we’ll know their intent," Mr. Consoli said. He also said he was surprised at the mayor’s position.
   "There are a good number of rather vociferous people opposed to the bypass," Mr. Consoli said. "You don’t just need a unified voice on this, you need to take a position."