2004-03-03 / Opinion

State should bite the bullet on bypass exit

State should bite the bullet on bypass exit

State should bite the
bullet on bypass exit

If the cost to taxpayers wasn’t millions of dollars, it would seem almost comical to report that a highway could be built with two exits and that one of those exits would never open.

This must be New Jersey, because that is exactly what happened on the final leg of the Route 33 bypass between Halls Mill Road in Freehold Township and a point just east of Fairfield Road in Howell. The 1.5-mile leg was built at a cost of $30 million, yet the exit ramp from the bypass, heading east, to Howell Road has not opened in the year since that final stretch of the bypass opened.

As reported recently, it does not appear the ramp will ever open. How did this happen?

Project engineers apparently designed the location of the exit ramp and the location of the Howell Road overpass over the bypass with the belief that the speed limit on Howell Road was 25 mph and that cars making turns off the ramp and onto Howell Road would have sufficient time to do so.

That would have been fine except for one thing — the speed limit on Howell Road is 50 mph and, according to Howell police, motorists would be in extreme danger because of a blind spot on the overpass that would prevent them from seeing cars speeding toward them as they attempted to leave the bypass exit ramp and turn onto Howell Road.

Residents of Howell and visitors to the town should absolutely thank Howell Traffic Safety Officer Matthew Bishop for determining that this situation existed before the exit ramp to Howell Road opened. Police Chief Ron Carter has made it clear that he supports Bishop’s findings and that motorists’ safety will not be jeopardized if nothing changes.

Compounding the situation was a recent published remark attributed to DOT Commissioner John F. Lettiere Jr., who was quoted as saying that $200,000 had been set aside for the realignment of the exit ramp to Howell Road and that the work would be done this spring.

Asked about that plan, a DOT spokesman told Greater Media Newspapers the state has reversed itself and there will not be any additional work done to the ramp. Instead, it will remain closed to all but emergency vehicles.

We will renew a call we’ve made before. It is time for the DOT to come clean and admit the screw-up. Then administrators can do one of two things: Leave the ramp where it is and put up a traffic light that will control the situation or relocate the ramp so that drivers do not take their lives in their hands in order to make a turn onto Howell Road.

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