Traffic plan studied for Rte. 35/520 intersection

Three alternatives under consideration by DOT


Staff Writer

The state is proposing upgrades to the congested intersection where routes 520 and 35 and the NJ Transit railroad crossing converge.

At last week’s Red Bank Borough Council meeting, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation (DOT) gave a presentation on a proposed traffic pattern that would affect the intersections of Newman Springs Road (Route 520) and Broad Street (Route 35), also Route 35, Wikoff Place and Pinckney Road.

Kimberly N. Mooring, transportation engineer with the DOT Division of Project Planning and Development, said she has been working with the boroughs of Red Bank and Shrewsbury, and NJ Transit, to find a solution to the problematic intersection.

Mooring made it clear that in addition to the two options that were presented at the meeting, there is a third option, in which the town would do nothing to the intersection.

There are five different legs feeding into the intersection, including the jughandle used to make a left from Route 35 onto Newman Springs Road.

The plan is to synchronize the street light signals with the NJ Transit signals.

“The train interrupts the cycle,” said Mooring. “Our task was to work with NJ Transit to find a resolution. Everyone has the right to get from point A to point B safely.”

The proposed plan, referred to as Alternate D, would allow the light cycle to pick up where it left off, as opposed to starting again at the beginning of the cycle, which is what happens now after a train goes by.

There is also a second alternative, referred to as Alternate D-J, which would include the Alternate D plan, but would also work to reduce the signal cycle by one.

The Alternate D-J plan would make Route 35 north of the Newman Springs Road intersection one-way going north. The left turn onto Maple Avenue after the train tracks would no longer be an option, because Maple Avenue south of Wikoff Place would be one-way going south.

Under this plan, in order to reach Maple Avenue northbound, a driver would have to make a left onto Wikoff Place, which would become one-way going west.

Drivers would have to be in the right lane on Wikoff Place to make a right turn onto Maple Avenue.

Drivers headed south on Broad Street would have to make a right onto Wikoff Place, moving into the left lane to make a left onto Maple Avenue, to then make a right and continue south on Route 35.

William Anderson, of Vollmer Associates engineering firm in Mount Laurel, made a presentation on behalf of the DOT, to show the council and standing-room-only crowd of residents details of the proposed plan and how it would work.

“When this plan was first brought to me,” said Anderson, “I was so concerned that it wouldn’t work that I had my staff go back and run the trial with a different model.”

Anderson said that he had been concerned about the weaving that would have to take place on Wikoff Place in order for traffic to get to the correct turn lanes.

He said that he was convinced now that the plan is safe and a better alternative to the present situation at the Route 35 and Newman Springs Road intersection.

Mooring said that this is a project that the DOT has been working on since 2002, and that the previous 20 plans were scrapped.

Wikoff Place is currently a two-way street, with parking on both sides.

If the plan were to be implemented, parking would be permitted only on one side of the street, amounting to about 11 spaces, according to Anderson.

Anderson said this plan is to avoid traffic backup that happens because of the multiple signals at the intersection.

He said that a traffic count was done by the DOT in 1999 at that intersection, and that the simulation that he presented was an estimate of current traffic patterns at a growth of .5 percent per year.

The software that was used to create the traffic simulation did not have the capability to factor in the train signals. This was a problem for some residents who came to the meeting. More than one resident questioned how realistic the simulation could be without that factor.

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (D-13) was present for the meeting and was not optimistic about the proposed plan.

Azzolina is an owner of the Foodtown Supermarket that is located between Broad Street and Maple Avenue. The new traffic pattern would affect access into the Foodtown parking lot. Southbound traffic on Broad Street would have to turn off onto Wikoff Place and make a left turn into the Foodtown lot. Those cars would no longer be able to enter via the driveway on Broad Street. Northbound traffic on the stretch of Broad Street between Maple Avenue and Wikoff Place would be able to make the left into the lot.

“You’ve neglected to consider the traffic that comes from people going in and out of private driveways,” Azzolina said.

He also said he thought a computer simulation could not prove one way or the other that the new traffic pattern would be a good idea.

“Computers don’t tell it all,” Azzolina said. “And from a safety point of view, I think this plan will just create another horror.”

Robert Clark, Irving Place, said that what would be gained through the benefits of the change would not balance out what would be lost.

“The negative impacts of this plan on private property and pedestrians and having speedways on three lane roads, far outweigh the minimal gain on improvement,” Clark said.

Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. asked that residents let him and other elected officials know what they think of the plan and the council will use this input to come to a decision on the traffic plan.