If you've ever had to get on or off the Garden State Parkway around Hope Road in Eatontown at rush hour, you know the traffic pattern could use a tweaking to ease the congestion and back up of cars that occurs each weekday.
The Turnpike Authority's chief engineer, Richard J. Racynski, presented preliminary plans on Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Fort Monmouth Economic Development Authority for improvements to Exit 105 of the Garden State Parkway and the intersection of Route 36 and Hope Road. The plans are part a proposed $40 million plan to improve traffic flow in the area and improve access to Fort Monmouth.
, residents and local officials in Eatontown and Tinton Falls turned out to question the board about the plans for their municipalities, which were just popping up in the news. FMERA officials had offered to set up a meeting for municipal officials with the TA to go over the proposal. Initially the TA said it would not meet with residents until the project was contracted out in July.
Raczynski brought two renderings with him and gave a brief overview to the board. The main improvement at the Hope Road intersection would include a new ramp from the parkway north exit that would run between a neighboring hotel and the park and ride, and empty out onto Hope Road. Hope Road would also be widened north and south of Route 36, with new traffic signals installed.
Raczynski said that this would let drivers headed toward Hope Road avoid the Route 36 bottleneck that exists now from cars exiting the parkway and turning right onto Hope Road or taking the jughandle to go on Hope Road north.
Cars headed to Hope Road north would also take this new ramp south of Route 36 and then make a left onto Hope Road at the new light and proceed to cross over Route 36, without having to bother with the jughandle.
From this same area south of Route 36, there would also be a new lane that would take drivers headed toward the Monmouth Mall from Hope Road in Tinton Falls, through the woods and onto Route 36 east, completely avoiding the now-congested intersection of Hope Road and Route 36.
The existing ramps from the parkway south would also be widened and the jughandle would remain.
For the drivers heading south on the parkway who want to get to the western portion of the fort, there are two proposed ramps that will completely bypass the current Exit 105 which now empties onto Route 36. These drivers would now be able to bear right off the Parkway onto Wayside Road. According to the TA, this gives new access to the already existing Pearl Harbor and Tinton avenues and Route 18 in both directions.
The TA's presentation to FMERA was met with little questioning and FMERA Director Bruce Steadman praised the authority for being "so receptive" to the board's ideas. Raczynski mentioned that the TA and FMERA had sat down together and took the preliminary plan through several revisions to include FMERA's input on access to the fort.
Freeholder Lillian Burry, who was present at the meeting, told Patch she thought the plan was a step in the right direction and something the county had been talking about for five years. As she put it, in that Exit 105 area, "at the hour of 5 o'clock, you don't move."
Though the presentation was at a public meeting, it was not necessarily directed at the public. Raczynski's brief overview of the project was aimed at people familiar with the plan. About the map he brought along, Burry later noted that "for the uninitiated, it was hard to make heads or tails of it."
After the project is contracted out to a design firm in July, Raczynski said there would be "public information centers" in Eatontown and Tinton Falls and also public hearings in each for formal public comment.
In an e-mail to Patch, TA representative Thomas Feeney described these information centers:
"They’re usually held at a municipal building or a school, and they usually last for three hours or so. The purpose is for Turnpike Authority engineers and consultants to explain a project to any interested member of the public and to give members of the public a chance to ask questions or offer opinions. The engineers usually make a brief presentation at the beginning of the meeting and then repeat it later in the evening. There are usually maps and photos on easels around the room, so people can walk around, study the displays and ask questions of the professionals in the room between presentations."
According to Raczynski, the design and construction phases of the project will likely be two years each. He did note, however, that the project could be divided into two contracts. In that case construction on the Hope Road intersection could begin within a year.