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Turnpike Authority Hosts Information Center at Stockton

Information center opened at 4 p.m. in the Trustees Room at Richard Stockton College.

Residents and elected officials voiced their concerns regarding proposed Parkway interchanges at a Turnpike Authority Public Information Center Wednesday in the Trustees Room of 's Campus Center.

The Turnpike Authority's proposal calls for two full interchanges, with one on Jimmie Leeds Road, which would cut off direct access to the rest area in Galloway, and another on Pomona Road between West Moss Mill Road and Moss Mill Road.

The meeting, according to Executive Director of the Turnpike Authority Veronique Hakim, was meant merely to provide information to the public and was not a public hearing on the proposed interchanges at Jimmie Leeds Road and Pomona Road. A public hearing at which a public comment portion will be recorded by a court stenographer and published will be scheduled this fall, she said.

But still, on Wednesday many residents asked questions of the engineers who worked on the project, and many expressed frustrations during the event.

Some posed questions about access to the rest area off of Jimmie Leeds Road, while others claimed that traffic would actually worsen due to the proposed work, which would create two full interchanges, one at Jimmie Leeds Road and another on Pomona Road.

The main concern voiced by residents was that they have been asking the Turnpike Authority to consider a full interchange on Route 30 for decades.

Jerry Savelly, an Absecon resident who served as a Councilman in Pleasantville during the 1970s, was an Atlantic County Freeholder during the 1980s, and was an Absecon Councilman during the 1990s, said that during all three decades and from all three legislative bodies resolutions were sent to the Turnpike Authority asking for the consideration of a full interchange on Route 30.

Galloway Township Councilman Jim Gorman said that he expected more discussion on Route 30 as well, saying that the Turnpike Authority is "telling us they're going to do it the way they're going to do it," but that, "Route 30 is where it should be."

Gorman said that collectively, if legislators from the township, county and state put pressure on the Turnpike Authority, their voices would more likely be heard regarding an interchange on Route 30, which many say would provide an economic boost for business on that highway.

Democratic candidate for City Council Jim McElwee, during an engineer's presentation, asked about the loss of access to a commuter lot at the rest stop.

Engineer Drew Markewicz of the RBA Group, which was contracted by the Turnpike Authority for this project, responded, saying that he tried different routes to get to the commuter lot and that it is possible to get there without the access road in four to nine minutes, depending on route.

He also said that 21,000 people per day take Jimmie Leeds Road and that 14,000 drive through the rest stop, with more than 90 percent of them passing through to get to the Parkway.

This, according to Turnpike Authority Media Relations Coordinator Tom Feeney, presents a safety problem. He compared the rest stop in Forked River, which he said gets 33 percent more business than the rest stop in Atlantic City and, despite there being less traffic at the Atlantic City rest stop, there are 44 percent more accidents.

"Service area parking lots aren't built to be interchanges," he said.

Chief Patrick Moran said that a full interchange on Pomona Road is something his department has been asking for for years and said that it will help alleviate traffic on Jimmie Leeds Road and Wrangleboro Road in the mornings and evenings.

The plan is currently in the design phase, but, according to a pamphlet handed out at the information session, construction should begin in 2013 and end sometime in 2015. Markewicz said that until the interchange at Jimmie Leeds Road is opened, residents will not lose their current access to the Atlantic City Rest Area.

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