The county is moving forward with plans for its long term improvements on Route 22—and most of these plans center on dealing with the high volume of traffic using Route 22 just to get to Route 287 South.
According to Joseph Fishinger, Somerset County's principal traffic engineer, the highway, which is filled with businesses and restaurants along one stretch, is often filled with people using it as a thru-way.
"Route 22 is carrying more traffic than Route 287," he said during a presentation about the state of the project Thursday. "We have found a large number want to be on Route 287 to go to the turnpike. They are using Route 22 as an oversized ramp."
The county held a presentation on the long term improvement project for the , discussing the different proposals for the project at this point, and encouraging residents to submit feedback on the what has been discussed thus far.
Fishinger said there have been a variety of meetings so far on the projects, with the county gathering feedback along the way.
But now, Fishinger said, the county has a total of three alternatives that it will present to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for consideration. At this point, he said, they are in the concept development phase of the project, and are moving toward feasibility to determine which of the concepts can actually be done.
The first alternative simply brings Route 22, both east and west, up to NJDOT standards, for a cost of about $32.3 million.
The second alternative provides a through lane on a section of Route 22 East to Gaston Avenue, offering service roadways between Mountain Avenue and North Gaston Avenue. This proposal costs about $45.8 million.
The third alternative provides through lanes on Route 22 East all the way to Route 287, and will cost about $54.9 million.
According to Fishinger, the purpose of the through lane is add additional lanes for eastbound traffic, allowing drivers to decide if they want to head to the businesses, or drive straight through to Route 287.
"It provides additional lanes in the median for eastbound traffic," he said.
These extra lanes, Fishinger said, are separated by a median barrier for those who want to be driving locally as opposed to those using the highway as just a way to get to Route 287.
Among the many shared features between the different alternatives, the biggest is a new Route 202/206 North ramp to Route 287 South. That ramp will connect the two highways between Commons Way and Garretson Road.
Fishinger said it allows drivers to get to Route 287 South without having to venture onto Route 22.
Ron Krilla and his wife, Judy, of Bridgewater, said they are thrilled with the plans, and the work that has been put into them.
"There has been a lot of thought and planning to maintain the safety, liveability and movability of the road," Ron Krilla said. "There are good concepts in each alternative."
Judy Krilla said she is pleased there are any plans at all.
"It's good the county is doing something before this gets to be a horrendous problem," she said.
Krilla said she believes additional signage concerning through lanes and other sections of Route 22 will be especially helpful for people who do not live in the area.
"I think the signage will be important, and it has to be safer for people passing through," she said. "I used to be scared of driving there because of the driveways on Route 22."
And Ron Krilla said it is important to recognize the different areas of Route 22.
"The road is from the rural area to the commercial corridor," he said. "It changes at the ramp to the mall to get to Route 287 South."
As to these long term improvements, Fishinger said, the county is hoping to begin construction in about 10 years, after the planning is complete.
At this point, Fishinger said, the county is looking for comments from the public, and will be accepting comments for about the next 30 days before moving forward with the NJDOT.
"We will be having more public meetings," he said. "Now we are looking for comments."
These plans are different from the short term improvements, which are expected to be out to bid around October. Those improvements, Fishinger said, concern removing the u-turns in the medians on Route 22 and other plans.
"Construction will be in the spring," he said. "We are closing u-turns and improving overpasses to handle traffic."
For more information about the project, visit route22corridor.info.