The Garden State Parkway is on its way to becoming completely free of traffic signals.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner and New Jersey Turnpike Authority Chairman James Simpson and Congressman Frank LoBiondo joined other elected officials at a groundbreaking ceremony announcing the removal of all three traffic signals on the Garden State Parkway Monday morning, Feb. 4.
The signals will be removed via a $110 million project to be performed by the Richard E. Pierson Construction Company, out of Pilesgrove. Pierson Construction was the lowest of four bidders, according to NJDOT.
Federal funding secured by LoBiondo in the amount of $32 million, along with $78 million from the Turnpike Authority's 10-year capital program will help pay for the project, according to NJDOT.
About 26 forested acres of land will be impacted by the project, according to NJDOT. Under the New Jersey No Net Loss Reforestation Act, the state is required to replace any trees removed during construction.
New trees can be replanted on about 20 acres of land, and the Turnpike Authority will pay $382,500 to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to plant and maintain trees on an additional 6.25 acres of public land not located in the project area.
The Turnpike Authority will also be spending $5 million to restore, preserve or enhance over 38 acres of wetlands area in Cape May County in response to 4.62 acres of freshwater wetlands and 2.37 acres of tidal wetlands that will be impacted by the project, NJDOT said.
The three traffic signals are located at Parkway interchanges at interchanges 9 (Shell Bay Avenue), 10 (Stone Harbor Boulevard) and 11 (Crest Haven Road) in Cape May County. They are the only three signals on the toll road, which spans 172 miles.The traffic signals have been in place since the 1940's, and were incorporated into the Parkway when the road opened in 1954, according to NJDOT.
The goal of the project is to improve safety, Guadagno said.
“Traffic lights have no place on a busy highway like the Garden State Parkway, and there has been nearly unanimous agreement that the lights at these three Cape May County intersections near the southern end of the Parkway needed to go," Guadagno said. "By finally making this project a reality, we will save lives. We will make the Parkway and the local roads safer and less congested for the people who live and work in Cape May County and for the citizens of New Jersey and all those who depend on these roads to get safely to their favorite shore towns.”
The project will see three bridges built, one at each interchange. Ramps will also be constructed at all three interchanges, in an effort to provide continuous access between the Parkway and local roads.
“Three people have died in crashes at these traffic lights just since the preliminary design for this project began in 2004,” Simpson said. “It’s time to get this project done and get those traffic lights out of there. When a problem with a wetlands mitigation site last year looked like it might delay construction, we promised to do whatever we had to be in a position to award the contract in December and get the work underway by early this year. I’m happy to say we were able to do that.”
“This important project is one of several major capital investments the Turnpike Authority is making on the Garden State Parkway in South Jersey,” Turnpike Authority Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said. “The Authority is spending nearly $700 million, or about 10 percent of its capital program budget, just on projects in Cape May and Atlantic Counties. That work is creating jobs, relieving congestion and making the Parkway safer.”
The project is expected to take about two years, and will begin with the relocation of utilities and the construction of a temporary diversion road parallel to the northbound side of the Parkway, according to NJDOT.
The diversion road is expected to completed in about three months, and will carry traffic for the duration of the project, according to NJDOT.