Engineers are in the final design stage of a $250 million Garden State Parkway improvement project that is set to begin in 2012, officials announced Monday.
Representatives from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority were in Brick on Monday, showing off their plans for a large-scale roadway improvement project that will increase shoulder width, remove obstructions, improve sight distance and reconstruct the roadway between mile markers 83 and 100 in both directions. The state will work with Ocean County officials to reconstruct three interchanges - 83, 88-89 and 91 - while also improving Route 70 and Burnt Tavern Rd. in Brick to better accommodate Parkway traffic.
"This is an area of roadway that is more than 50 years old, and we finally have an opportunity to bring it up to snuff," said John Withers, a supervising engineer with the Turnpike Authority. "There are a few other areas along the Parkway that need shoulder improvements, but this area of the Parkway has the greatest need."
The changes are a long-time coming, Withers said.
Shoulder improvements on the Parkway were first proposed for northern Ocean and southern Monmouth counties in 1987 as part of a $500 million Highway Authority capital improvement program. Since toll increases aimed at funding the project never went through, work never began. After the Turnpike Authority took over the Parkway in 2003, the project was revived through a $7 billion capital project funded through a combination of toll revenues and state borrowing.
The need to improve shoulders in the local area of the Parkway has been identified in a number of traffic studies conducted over the past two decades, Withers said. Four of the Parkway's top six accident sites are within the area, according to police records. When accidents do occur, the design of the roadway in the area impedes cleanup efforts, said Withers.
"State Police have a hard time responding to incidents because there are no shoulders," said Withers. "We have a one mile delay that turns into a 12 mile delay."
Four contractors are completing the final design stage of the project right now, Withers said, and all design efforts are due to be completed by the end of 2011. Work should begin in 2012 and take about two to three years depending on whether or not certain bridges and culverts have to be reconstructed. All lanes will be widened to 12-feet, and 12-foot shoulders will be constructed on both sides of the roadway along the entire construction area. The lanes and shoulders will conform with current standards to support traffic traveling in excess of 60 mph.
Additionally, Turnpike officials are working with Ocean County engineers to help improve traffic flow to and from the Parkway. Plans call for the removal of the toll plaza at exit 88 and the construction of a service road to the toll plaza at exit 89. Access improvements to the highway from Route 70 are also being designed at exits 88-89, with additional improvements being planned for exit 91 at Burnt Tavern Rd. in Brick. A new intersection will be constructed at Lanes Mill Rd. and Herborn Ave. to alleviate traffic on Burnt Tavern. At interchange 83 in Toms River, a new ramp will be built at Indian Head Rd. to allow drivers to enter and exit the Parkway without having to use Rt. 9.
The area affected traverses Toms River, Brick, Lakewood and Wall townships. All of the planned work will take place in existing right-of-ways without the need to purchase additional lands or acquire easements.