LINDEN - "A little bit of schizophrenia," is what Mark Murawski, county transportation planner, calls the section Route 220 which runs from Linden to Jersey Shore. In recent years, the high-speed corridor has gained notoriety among locals as a particularly dangerous roadway.
In an attempt to learn more and address safety concerns, the state department is beginning an access management study Route 220 from just west of Route 287 in Piatt Township to the West Fourth Street Interchange in Woodward Township. Officials from the department will be hosting a public meeting outlining the study from 6 to 7 p.m. on June 25 at the Woodward Township Volunteer Fire Company.
Over the past several years, the corridor has seen an increase in commercial vehicles and throughway drivers due to local development and the recent boom in the natural gas and oil industries. However, unlike a highway, whose entrance and exit ramps serve as dedicated access points; the corridor ties into multiple side roads, on and off ramps and more than 250 driveways in its six mile stretch.
The road has a longstanding history of traffic accidents and fatalities. From 2002 to 2012, there were 362 crashes in the corridor; 135 of those crashes involved injuries and 13 were fatal, according to data from the state Department of Transportation.
"There's interstate traffic going through that road; and at the same time that road is trying to serve local development and residents. We really need to find a vision for that corridor otherwise the traffic problems will persist," Murawski said.
Rick Mason, of the department, agreed. He explained that the department is beginning an intensive study of the corridor, in an attempt o discover how engineers might be able to make the roadway safer for drivers.
"We have had ongoing safety concerns and congestion concerns regarding that corridor for quite some time. We are hoping to find out, from an engineering standpoint, what we an do to make this heavily-traveled corridor more forgiving for drivers," Mason said.
"We've got a combination of several things going on here. There's the additional traffic from new developments, we've had an ongoing speed issue, and it's a huge growth corridor," Murawski said.
Engineers will collect data through several sources,. Rather than seeking to widen the road, they'll be seeking new ways to manage access points, Murawski explained.
"We're looking at what access points can be eliminated or merged, how certain traffic points can be redirected. We're very focused on the turning movements at various intersections," Murawski said.
Mason explained that, unlike the corridor, a true interstate highway has controlled access points.
"This corridor serves about 22,000 vehicles a day. It's pretty much like a highway, but it has these uncontrolled access points. You have lanes going 55 mph where other drivers, on the side, can get get on and off the road and cross lanes through traffic," Mason said.
"We're hoping to discover what types of safety projects we might be able to program into the corridor. Once that plan is complete, we'll be sharing those findings with local municipalities and county planners," he added.