State moves up plans for Route 9 bus lanes

OLD BRIDGE — Bus-only lanes will be created next year along a 4.2-mile stretch of Route 9 as part of the state Department of Transportation’s new Hyperbuild initiative.

The additional bus lanes in Old Bridge are part of an $8.5 million project that will also bring pedestrian rest areas to the center of Route 9 and sidewalks on both sides of the highway in the area of Ferry Road, according to DOT spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2006, he said. The project, which had been slated for a 2008 completion, is one of 14 statewide chosen for the Hyperbuild program, which is designed to condense several phases of road projects’ development, saving time and money.

The bus lanes will be added along what are now the shoulders of Route 9 both north and south of the Ferry Road intersection. LaVorgna said the intersection is a crucial spot to improve traffic flow and make road conditions safer. He said 6,800 commuters use buses at Ferry Road, and 440 buses stop there each day.

LaVorgna said the current shoulders will have to be widened in order to become bus lanes. There will be no shoulders along that stretch as the result of the project.

“We’re going to maximize the use of the highway,” he said.

The pedestrian rest areas will provide a sidewalk spot in the center of Route 9 where pedestrians can stop while waiting for a break in traffic.

“It’s a safety zone in the middle of the highway,” LaVorgna said.

The new sidewalks will be built along an as-yet-undetermined stretch of Route 9 north and south of Ferry Road.

Commuters should not expect major traffic tie-ups during construction, as the three primary lanes of traffic will likely be unaffected as the work is being done.

“We’re going to do as much work as we can off the main lines,” LaVorgna said. “Traffic management will be a prime consideration at all times.”